Once upon a time, there was this woman – let’s call her Mia – and she wanted to write beautiful stories for her blog. Mia noticed she was not getting much traffic from Google, while other bloggers seemed to attract a lot of visitors. She wondered what she was doing wrong. One day, at a blogging conference Mia heard about a wonderful thing called SEO. She learned that she should use the words her audience was using, she learned she needed to think about the words she wanted to be found for. And she needed to use those exact words. It was a game changer for Mia. After applying these tips, Mia attracted much more traffic to her blog. Eventually, she even started making money with her blog. Mia blogged happily ever after.
Stories are nice to read. Storytelling is a great tactic. But what does it have to do with SEO? Is it a good idea to use storytelling if your main goal is to rank for a specific term? In this blog post, the fourth in a series about storytelling, I am going to explain how storytelling can be an effective SEO tactic.
Storytelling and SEO may seem counterintuitive
An important part of SEO is focused on using the right words – the words you want to be found for- in your text. But if you use storytelling, if you use metaphors. If you tell a story by making an example, chances are that you are not using your focus keyphrase then.
At the beginning of the post you are reading right now, I shared a little story about Mia. In that story, I am not using my focus keyphrase – the words I want to rank with, with this particular post. I want to rank with ‘storytelling SEO’. But in the entire first paragraph, the word ‘storytelling’ does not pop up. That, in itself, is not beneficial for your SEO. The Yoast SEO plugin will definitely suggest using the focus keyword in your first paragraph. So, you’ll have one bullet that’ll not turn green. That’s okay. It is totally okay to have a paragraph – or two – that does not contain the focus keyphrase.
So why is storytelling a good SEO tactic?
Storytelling is good for SEO because it will make your post nice to read. And, creating content that people like is exactly what Google wants. If you’re writing blog posts people enjoy reading, you’ll increase your chances to rank high in Google. In my previous post about storytelling, I’ve explained how you can use storytelling in a blog post.
If people like your content, you’ll also have a higher chance that people will remain on your website. Your time on page increases and your bounce rate will decrease. These factors will help tremendously with the ranking of your post.
Next to making your blog post more fun to read, storytelling is beneficial for SEO for another reason. If people like your post, they’ll be more likely to engage with it. They’ll leave a comment; they’ll share it on their social platforms. That’ll already increase traffic to your post. But these things will also increase the likelihood Google will rank a post. Google loves content that is written with people in mind. Google will notice that people like to read your text and that will result in higher rankings in the long run.
Use little stories as metaphors and examples. It’ll make your content so much nicer to read. Don’t worry about having an orange or red bullet. As long as your overall bullet in Yoast SEO is green, it’ll work out fine. Stories are beneficial for your SEO, more beneficial than a perfect keyword density or keyword distribution. Storytelling will allow you to write content that is so good that people will want to stay on your page. That’s very, very good for SEO!
Cornerstone articles are those posts that are most important to you. The ones you really want to rank with. The posts that make people come back to your site or buy your stuff. But how do you get those cornerstone articles to end up high in the search engines? How do you get the most out of your cornerstone articles?
To rank with these articles, you need to make sure they’re the best articles you can write. You also need a kickass internal linking structure. Luckily, Yoast is there to help! In this post, I’ll explain just what cornerstone content is and how to rank with these articles! Are you struggling with implementing cornerstone content? Check out how Yoast SEO can help you with your cornerstone strategy!
What not to do when trying to rank
Before we cover what to do, let’s first briefly discuss what not to do, and how ranking works. Without a doubt the most common question we are asked is: “how do I make my site rank for keyword X?”. What most people don’t realize, is that they’re asking the wrong question. You see, sites don’t rank: individual pages rank. If you want to rank for a particular keyword or keyphrase, you’ll need to determine which post or page you want to rank for that particular keyword.
Adding that keyword to the title of every page is not helpful; you should use a focus keyphrase only once. What also won’t work is writing 200 articles around variations of a keyphrase, without one central article linking them all together. You need one single page that is the center of the content about that topic – a “hub” page, if you will. That’s where cornerstone content comes in. But how do you make sure your cornerstone content articles start ranking in the search engines?
Now go ahead and create that post or page on your site. Take your time, as this is going to be the content that’ll make you rank, but not just that, it’s going to be the content that ranks. Which means real people are going to read it as well, and you need to convert those people. So, think about search engines by all means, but think even more about the visitors who will end up reading that page – and give them something valuable.
Which keywords to target with cornerstone articles?
Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for your most ‘head’ or most competitive keywords. Of course, you should still be realistic when determining these head keywords. But, your internal linking structure will help your cornerstone pages rank (more on that below), which is why these articles should aim to rank for your most competitive keywords.
Positioning that new cornerstone content on your site
Now let’s talk about where to place that content on your site. Important content deserves a place within your core site structure, not a news item or blog post drifting around somewhere. It should be easily found in a few clicks.
This also means you should not create other pages within your site that target the exact same keyword! And you really don’t have to, as there are many ways to use keyword variations for these other pages and use these in your site structure.
Build a great internal linking structure
Like external links, internal links are very important for SEO. If you want your cornerstone content to rank well, your site structure needs to be impeccable. Google considers the articles that have most internal links pointing towards them the most important content on your website. That’s why you need to make sure your cornerstones get most internal links. These are the ones you want to rank with!
When you’re adding links to your cornerstones, use the keyword you’re targeting as the anchor text for that link, if possible. But most importantly, link from within the content. Don’t just add some site-wide sidebar/footer links. The reason for this is simple: links from within content are way more valuable than links from sidebars.
In addition to that, you need to make sure that you’re linking to your cornerstones from pages that actually are related. Contextual links are the ones that’ll help you rank. Adding hand-picked, relevant links that are useful for someone visiting your website, is the best way of achieving this. Automation will not give you quality results. That means that building a decent linking strategy is a lot of work, especially if your site is large.
Finding internal links in Google
You can use Google to find relevant internal links. The easiest way to figure out which pages Google thinks are relevant for your keyphrase is a ‘site:’ search in Google. So if I were to try and find the most important page for our local SEO plugin within yoast.com, I’d search for:
site:yoast.com local seo plugin
If you do this for a keyphrase on your site, you’ll probably find quite a few pages. Edit each of those pages and add a link to your new cornerstone content. As you can imagine, this can be a lot of work!
Boosting your internal linking structure with Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO has two features to help you work on a great internal linking structure for your cornerstones. The text link counter and the internal linking tool (Premium). Both will make it a lot easier to work on that perfect site structure for your cornerstones.
The text link
counter shows you how many incoming and outgoing internal links a
post or page has, so you can keep an eye on the amount of internal
links your cornerstone article gets.
The internal linking tool helps you to quickly pick related links to add to your posts and pages. It analyses all of your posts to figure out which articles are related. In the sidebar, you can easily pick articles that are relevant to link to. You can simply drag and drop the links in your article. The articles will be related and contextual because the plugin analyzed the content of all of your posts on prominent words. If you have indicated that your article is a cornerstone article, it will pop up highest, because they are the most important. Make sure to link to these, whenever they pop up.
Promote your cornerstone content
If well-written, your cornerstone content should be something to be proud of! Something that others willingly share and thereby also something that will attract links. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people who have written about related topics: show them what you have created and that it might be worthwhile for their visitors to see. You might even want to offer to write a guest post for them on the topic, linking back to your article.
Conclusion: how to rank with cornerstones?
Your cornerstone articles deserve special attention. They need to be written carefully, to be the most complete and authoritative. They should also be easy to find on your site! Cornerstones need many contextual links pointing towards them to make Google see that they are the most important articles. That’ll make them rank in the search engines. That’ll get them the traffic they’re worthy of!
If you want to learn more about cornerstone content and setting up your site structure, we recommend…
Google can read and analyze texts very well. Google understands that ‘walk’, ‘walking’, ‘walked’, ‘walks’ all boils down to the same thing. Also, Google knows that ‘baby’ is basically the same thing as babies. Optimizing your text for an exact match keyword isn’t a very smart thing to do. That’s why we introduced word form recognition in Yoast SEO Premium. You can now optimize your post and we’ll analyze the different word forms like walk, walks and walking. For longer tail keywords, we also recognize the words if you decide to use them in a different word order.
So, at Yoast, we talk about word forms, sometimes also about morphology recognition. At the same time, I hear the linguists at Yoast talking about keyword stemming too. And I noticed some SEOs talked about it as well. But what is keyword stemming? How does stemming relate to morphology recognition? And what does it have to do with SEO? I’ll explain all about it in this post.
What is stemming?
Stemming or keyword stemming refers to Google’s ability to understand different word forms of a specific search query. It is called stemming because it comes from the word stem, base or root form. If you use the word ‘buy’ in a sentence, a stemming algorithm would recognize the words ‘buys’, ‘buying’ and ‘bought’ as variations of the word ‘buy’ as well. Some SEOs also differ between stemming and lemmatization.
Google has used stemming in its algorithms for a long time now. The first blog posts about it from SEO experts like Rand Fishkin and Bill Slawski go as far back as 10 years ago. For languages other than English, Google began recognizing word forms much later. In recent years, Google’s algorithm became even more advanced, making exact match keyword optimization more and more outdated.
If you want to optimize your text for the term ballet shoes, for example, you should be able to use the term ballet shoe as well. Google understands that ballet shoes and ballet shoe are basically the same thing. Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin recognizes both word forms as well (at least in English and, since Yoast SEO 10.1, in German).
Stemming and word forms
If people are talking about keyword stemming or a stemming algorithm, they mean that the algorithm is able to recognize different word forms of a certain keyword. That’s exactly what the word forms functionality in Yoast SEO does. We do not automatically detect synonyms, but we do allow you to enter synonyms and we’ll take them into account in our SEO analysis.
Maybe we should have called our word forms functionality stemming. But it’s a difficult word to explain to people. So, that’s why we’ll stick with word forms.
Stemming and SEO
Google has become very smart. It understands texts. It understands context. In order to stand a chance in the search engines, you need to write awesome texts that show your authority on a certain subject. Content stuffed with keywords does not rank anymore. Google hates that, users hate that.
You need to use synonyms and related keywords in your content to make it pleasant to read and to make it rank! You need to use different word forms in order to write a post that is nice to read. Thanks to stemming, we can tell that they belong together. Read more about it in our post about our word form analysis.
The SEO industry has been talking about stemming and lemmatization for over a decade. Our linguists talk about it too. For good reason, because stemming allows them to recognize different word forms. This isn’t “easy”. At Yoast, we have an entire team of linguists working on our SEO and readability analyses. We’re now able to recognize different word forms properly for both English and German. We’re already working on new languages, I know Dutch is high on our list — probably because it’s our native language. Do let me know: which language should we tackle next?
The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites
This is the original WordPress SEO article since 2008, fully updated for 2019!
WordPress is one of the best content management systems when it comes to SEO. But even though it gets a lot right “out of the box”, there’s much more that you can do to improve your performance.
Optimizing your site using the tactics and best practices outlined in this article will help you improve your rankings, gain more subscribers or sales, and have a better website in general.
Because good SEO should be ingrained in all aspects of your online marketing and PR, this guide covers quite a lot of ground! It’s a long read, so feel free to use the table of contents below to jump around. Or, just download the PDF and get comfy on the couch!
If you’re using another SEO plugin, like All in One SEO or Ultimate SEO, most of the principles will still apply. Of course, we’d prefer you to switch over and make use of our extremely powerful WordPress SEO plugin, which is why we’ve written a migration guide for you. It’s a really easy process!
Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well-optimized content management system. A basic setup can provide a strong foundation — even without extensive customization, theme optimization, and plugins. That said, there are a few things you should do to increase your chances of ranking, refine your workflow, and make sure your website is perfectly optimized.
By putting the right basic settings in place, and applying a few simple techniques, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation to build upon!
1.1. Check your health
First things first. Before you make any changes to your site, it is a good idea to see where you are now. There’s a lot to gain from getting it right: running your site on a modern server with updated software, at a web host that offers great performance. So ask yourself: on what hardware and software is your site running? What is your hosting plan? Are you using a budget shared hosting provider or have you invested in a dedicated hosting plan at a well-known web host that fine-tuned its servers for use with WordPress?
To get a sense of what is going on behind the scenes of your site, you can install the Health Check plugin. This plugin gives you loads of technical insights and helps you get information that outside parties can use to help you improve your site.
Health Check is incredibly helpful — so much so, that the WordPress team is now going to include the plugin in the core WordPress environment.
1.1.1 Check you’re using suitable hosting
According to WordPress’ technical requirements page, the recommended hosting plan to run WordPress should include a modern version of PHP, MySQL or MariaDB, and HTTPS support. It is possible to work with older server software, but that is not recommended. If you’ve installed the Health Check plugin, you can see the technical details of your installation. In addition, if you open the dashboard of your hosting provider, you should be able to see what type of plan you are on.
Many WordPress sites still run on outdated versions of PHP. One look at the WordPress stats reveals that almost half of the sites still run on a PHP version in the 5 series, while PHP 7.0 and up has been available for more than three years.
Backward compatibility is cool and all, but it’s holding back WordPress as a technology and site owners from getting the most out of their sites. These old versions of PHP don’t receive any more security fixes and are thus increasingly vulnerable to attacks.
Luckily, the WordPress team has dropped support for anything older than PHP 5.6. In December 2019, that minimum supported version of PHP will be upped to PHP 7.0. After that, it will follow the release schedule of PHP more closely.
So, one of the most important things you can do to improve the performance and security of your site is upgrading your hosting environment to a modern version of PHP. There are a lot of benefits to this:
PHP 7 offers an incredible speed boost.
It runs a lot more efficient, meaning less stress on your server.
Bring loads of modern development features.
It’s a much safer and more secure environment.
It’s future proof.
Now, this is something we all want, right? If you’ve checked your current hosting set-up in the previous section, you have an idea of what your site runs on now. If this shows outdated server software like PHP 5.5, it is a good idea to update this, if possible.
However, take special care before doing so. Ask for help if you’re not sure what you are doing.
Here are some steps to take:
(Always!) Backup your website.
Make a local staging environment based on a modern version of PHP.
Install the backup of your site on that server.
Test thoroughly to see if everything works properly.
Upgrade your live site — most of the times, your hosting provider can do this for you.
Historically, adopting SSL (getting an HTTPS URL, and a green padlock icon in the browser URL bar) was an optional tactic. Many sites, arguably, didn’t need the extra level of security which SSL provides.
Now, however, having a valid SSL certificate installed is mandatory — search engines may ‘penalize’ sites without valid SSL certificates and setups (and/or show warnings next to their search results). It’s also generally good practice for all websites to use SSL, to prevent hackers and third parties from intercepting requests and data.
Additionally, many modern site speed and performance techniques require a valid SSL/HTTPS setup. To take advantage of new, faster web technologies like HTTP/2, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox require the website to have a valid SSL certificate.
It’s worth spending some time clicking through all of the sections in the WordPress Settings menu, as many of the options there can impact the SEO of your WordPress site.
In particular, it’s worth double checking your Privacy settings, to make sure that you’re not accidentally preventing search engines from indexing your website. That’d definitely hurt your visibility!
You should also make sure that your Writing and Reading settings are all set correctly, these control your default categories, and what should be displayed on your homepage. Don’t forget to give your site a strong tagline in Settings → General, too!
1.3. Pick the right permalink structure
Your permalink settings define what format your page and post URLs will take, which can have a big impact on SEO. So if yo u’re creating a new site, one of the first things you should do is change your permalink settings, which you can find in Settings → Permalinks.
If you don’t change your settings from the default, all of your pages and posts will have URLs which look like example.com/?p=123. Whilst this is perfectly okay, it’s not particularly nice, and it might impact how users and search engines perceive the quality and relevance of your pages.
Changing the permalink structure alters the components, ordering, and structure of your website’s URLs. It’s important to select the right structure when initially setting up your website, as changing it later can cause SEO issues.
We usually recommend that people use a structure which creates URLs which look like example.com/post-name/, or example.com/category/post-name/, depending on how much importance they anticipate placing on the categorization of their content. For most WordPress sites, choosing either of these options will be perfectly suitable.
For the first option, you can just change the permalink setting to /%postname%/, like so:
To include the category, you can select “Custom Structure” and change the value to /%category%/%postname%/.
If you previously had ?p=<postid> as your permalink, WordPress will take care of all the redirects for you. This is also true if you change from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/.
You need to think about what you want your site to show up as www.example.com, or simply example.com. Make sure that in your general settings, in Settings → General, the version you want to show up is properly reflected:
From an SEO perspective, there’s little difference either way. Additionally, most hosting and server setups will automatically redirect requests for the ‘wrong’ version, to the version you’ve selected. That makes this primarily a branding consideration — which approach feels best for your site?
From a technical perspective, there’s not a huge amount of difference, either. Some setups might have some minor headaches if they omit the ‘www’ component, but these are increasingly rare.
2. Optimize your content
Your site should provide the best content on your chosen subject — period. People are looking for engaging, authoritative articles and trustworthy answers to their questions. Writing high-quality content for your WordPress site begins with your own unique ideas or distinctive take on a particular topic. But it also means presenting these ideas in a well-structured and accessible manner. Together, this will help you attract the audience you’re looking for and keep them engaged.
2.1. Research what your users want and need
Before writing your content, you should think about what search terms you want to be found for. Every page or post should be optimized for a specific keyphrase.
But how can you determine what keyphrase you want to be found for? To find out, you need to do keyword research. In this process, you should ask yourself questions such as: what terms do I want to rank for? How realistic is that I can rank for these terms?
Imagine you have a baking blog and you’re passionate about sharing your favorite recipes and baking techniques. Optimizing a post for a term such as [best cake recipe] isn’t such a realistic goal, because it’s a very general term. There’s a lot of competition for such general terms. Instead, you should think about finding your own niche. This niche could be [healthy, low-sugar cake recipes] or[French patisserie you can make at home].
Within a niche, you can become a true expert. Your expertise can enable you to create content that goes beyond that of your competitors. You can go deeper than others, or shed light on different angles of the same topic. For this, you’ll want to focus on long tail keyphrases. A long tail keyphrase might be [how to make a low-calorie vegan blueberry cheesecake]. A keyphrase like this is more specific, and therefore easier to rank for. Also, it’ll be more suitable for your specific niche topic.
It’s also important to think about what your audience actually wants to achieve by searching for a specific term. This is called search intent. For example, they could be looking for the answer to a specific question and you are able to provide the necessary information. Or they might want to buy a specific product that you can offer them. Think about the needs of your visitors and address them by creating content accordingly.
After you’ve done your keyword research and you know the topics you want to write about, you need to get to the actual writing. Most of the time that’s easier said than done. To get from an idea to a great piece of content, most likely you’ll have to follow a cycle of drafting, writing, editing, and rewriting.
Your first draft can just be an outline of your structure. You don’t have to write out everything in perfect prose at this point, but make sure that you follow a logical structure. For most pieces, that will include an introduction, your main points of argument, and a conclusion. Of course, this will vary per genre – a recipe will have a completely different structure.
You can flesh out the points further in the writing phase, where you try to come up with a first complete version of your text. Finally, in the editing phase, you should check whether your piece is engaging and easy to read. You might be an expert on your topic, but your audience probably isn’t (yet). So try to make your writing as accessible as possible. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a friend or colleague for some feedback. Another good trick is to read your text out loud to yourself. You can even let your computer speak it. It will give you a better idea of whether everything flows nicely.
2.3. Optimize your individual posts & pages
When writing or editing your post, there are a number of elements you need to pay special attention to in order to make it SEO-friendly. These elements include your subheadings, your title, and your meta description. All of these need to reflect the topic of the specific post.
Don’t forget, SEO-friendly doesn’t just mean that it’s easy for a search engine to grasp the topic of a page. More importantly, it means that your visitors can get the gist of your page at a single glance.
Your meta description and your title might be a deciding factor for whether visitors click on your page in the search results in the first place. And once they’ve visited your site, elements like subheadings can be critical for visitors to decide whether they want to stay on your site.
It’s also important to include the focus keyphrase in crucial elements of your post such as the title, the introduction, your subheadings, and your meta description.
All of these elements are crucial signals for what your post is about. Since your focus keyphrase is, in fact, the main topic of your page, it’s a logical consequence that you should make sure this topic is reflected in all of these elements.
The same logic holds true for your text overall: you need to make sure that you don’t stray off-topic; if you stay on-topic, it should follow naturally that you use your keyphrase multiple times throughout your text. But avoid stuffing your text with your keyphrase just for the sake of it. If you find it hard to include your keyphrase in your text a sufficient number of times, it might be a sign that you should take a different approach to the topic.
To avoid repetition, you can use synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean exactly the same or more or less the same as your keyphrase. An example of this are the words film and movie. Search engines will recognize that they have the same meaning, which you can also check by having a look at the search results: if you search for movie, film will also be highlighted in the results, and vice versa.
You can also make use of related keyphrases to optimize a single page for similar, related terms. You can use these to give context to your keyphrase. For example, if your keyphrase is [pumpkin soup] your related keyphrase might be [winter weeknight dinners]. This second, broader term gives additional information about your topic. It can also create coherence by establishing a link to similar pages on your post.
In most cases, your post’s URL should probably contain your focus keyphrase, so that it’s obvious what your page is about from the link. That said, you should always try and keep your permalinks short, descriptive, and clean — don’t put unnecessary words in for the sake of it!
Before you publish new posts or pages, you may also wish to consider removing ‘stopwords’ from your permalink. These are words like “a”, “and”, and “the”. When done carefully, this may make your permalinks more readable, and easier to use or link to. Posts with especially long titles may benefit from this approach.
For posts which have already been published, we’d recommend being careful when changing permalinks. If people have already linked to your pages, changing the URLs may make a mess. Even though WordPress will sometimes redirect users to the new location (the redirects manager in Yoast SEO Premium handles this automatically, and more reliably), changing URLs can impact performance.
2.3.3. Optimize your page title
Each page’s title — the contents of the HTML <title> tag — can be one of the most important factors for ranking well in search results. Not only is it the literal title of the tab or browser window, but it’s also the first line people see in the search results. It describes what your page is, or is about, and acts as an advert which encourages users to click.
On many websites, the default structure for posts and pages isn’t necessarily the most optimal approach for SEO. A title like “My blog » Cooking » Carbonara recipe” isn’t as compelling or effective as “My 20-minute delicious carbonara recipe | My Blog”.
It’s critical that you think about the structure of your titles, as well as the content of the title on each individual page. Typically, it’s worth considering that:
Search engines may put more weight on the early words — so trying to get your keywords near the start of the title might make you more likely to rank well.
People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.
Did you know? You can use Yoast SEO to structure your titles!
You can control the default structure of your page titles and descriptions in your Yoast SEO plugin. There are two parts of the plugin that control these. First of all, as soon as you install and activate the plugin, you get an ‘SEO’ section in your WordPress admin.
Navigate to SEO → Search Appearance and you’ll see a bunch of tabs for different types of pages on your site.
For each post type and taxonomy, you can set a so-called Title Template — as well as meta description templates. For posts on our site this looks like this:
This allows you to use components and variables to control how your page titles should behave by default. Of course, these can be overridden on a page-by-page basis.
For example, in the image above, you can see how we’re automatically grabbing elements like the title of the page, to stop us from having to manually write titles from scratch for every page.
There are all sorts of variables you can use in the titles and meta description, and they’re all listed and explained in the help tab on the page.
For advanced users, there are some additional cool features. For instance, you can use cf_<custom field name> to drop in any custom field — either from a post meta value or a user meta value.
NOTE: When you use these templates, be sure to check that your title tags behave as expected when viewed on the site. If they don’t, you may have a problem with the way your theme is built, and you might need to check the “Force rewrite” checkbox in our options. You can also follow these instructions to modify your templates.
2.3.4. Use headings correctly
Headings are great for structuring your content and helping readers process information in bite-sized chunks. They can also be helpful in describing a page’s layout and focus to search engines.
WordPress transforms the headings you put in your content into their respective HTML tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> and so on). That makes it important to think about which type of headings you use, and in which order. Getting that wrong can make your content harder to understand.
Although most themes for WordPress get the basics right, it’s worth making sure that your template sets your post title is an <h1> tag, and that you’re not using <h1> tags anywhere else in your page or your post content.
Your post content should then ‘flow’ naturally; for example, large, significant headings should use <h2> tags, subsections should use <h3> tags, and then subsequent new sections should use <h2>.
A meta description is primarily used search engines to show a description of your page in the search engine results, usually below your page title.
Tailoring and writing a descriptive meta description can encourage users to click your results in the search engine, even if you’re not necessarily ranking in the top position. It’s an advert, and your opportunity to impress.
Writing compelling, informative descriptions of your page content for every page on your site is best practice and gives you the opportunity to attract more visits.
Whilst it might feel like a lot of work to craft descriptions for every single page and post, it’s worth the effort.
We don’t recommend automated descriptions
Some themes and plugins try to produce descriptions automatically, by taking the first sentence or so of a post. This is a clever shortcut, but it rarely produces good descriptions.
The first sentence of a post is often introductory information, which doesn’t provide a great summary or an enticing advert!
The only well-written description is a handwritten one, and if you’re thinking of auto-generating the meta description, you might as well not do anything, and let the search engine pick and control the snippet.
Auto-generating a snippet is a “shortcut”, and there are no real shortcuts in SEO!
If you don’t provide a meta description, the search engine will generally try to find the keyword which was searched for in your page, and automatically pick a string around that — and highlight the searched phrase in bold in the results page.
Automatically generated snippets (whether by plugins, or search engines) are rarely as descriptive or as compelling as hand-written ones. So, we recommend that you use the meta description field you find in the Yoast SEO plugin to write a meta description. Make sure it entices the reader to click through and make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once.
NOTE: Search engines may choose to ignore your meta description if they think that it’s unsuitable for the page, or they might choose to show a custom description from the page content if they think it’s a better fit. There’s no way of forcing them to use your specific snippet.
2.3.6. Optimize your images and media
An often overlooked part of WordPress SEO is how you handle your images, videos, and media content.
To make sure that search engines can understand your images, you need to think about how you name and format your files. Writing descriptive accessible text descriptions helps, too, and can improve your performance significantly. As an added benefit, you’re also helping out readers who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers.
Using the proper alt attributes for images, and transcripts of videos are also something that we check in the content analysis functionality of our Yoast SEO plugin.
As Google strives to show its users the best and up to date information, you should keep track of your content and revise it regularly. Even more so, because you don’t want to show the visitors of your website outdated, redundant or incorrect information.
If you publish regularly and have hundreds, or even thousands, of blog posts, this is easier said than done. That’s why we’d advise focusing on two specific areas when it comes to content maintenance: updating cornerstone content and preventing keyword cannibalization.
2.4.2. Update your cornerstone content
Some pages on your site are more important than others. The most valuable content of your site is called cornerstone content. We’ve written extensively about cornerstone articles and how they can improve your rankings.
In short, these posts or pages:
contain essential information for your audience;
are complete, up-to-date and well-written;
get the most links from related posts within your own site;
rank higher than your other articles on the same topic;
get most organic traffic to your site.
When you’re in doubt where to start with updating your site’s content, always give priority to your cornerstone content. Your business relies on them, and they should never go stale!
2.4.3. No outdated cornerstones with Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO makes it a little easier to keep your cornerstones up to date at all times. If you use Yoast SEO on your site, you can mark a post as a cornerstone article. Doing so, these articles will undergo a more rigorous SEO analysis. In addition, they’ll appear in a separate list in your post overview, which makes it easy to browse through them and check if they’re still up to scratch.
If you’re on Yoast SEO premium, keeping track of them is even easier. The Stale cornerstone content filter only shows your cornerstone articles which haven’t been updated in the last 6 months. You’ll find this filter in your post overview. If it doesn’t show any posts you’re good, and if there are one or more posts in it, make sure you check and update them!
2.4.4. Keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization means you’re eating away your own rankings by creating too many articles for the same or similar keywords. If you have a dozen articles on the same topic, search engines don’t know which one of those they should rank highest. As a result, you’ll be competing with your own articles for a high position in the search engines.
If you publish frequently, as we do at Yoast, you’re bound to run into keyword cannibalization issues someday. That’s why we’ve created a framework on how to deal with keyword cannibalism. In short, you’ll have to:
Find out for which keywords it’s happening;
Analyze which content performs best for those keywords;
Keep the best performing posts;
Decide if you should merge the other posts into the better performing one;
Duplicate content issues arise when search engines encounter multiple URLs with the same or very similar content. As a result, search engines don’t know which of these URLs to rank higher, resulting in lower rankings for all of them.
In the previous section, we’ve already addressed keyword cannibalization, which is caused by writing about the same topic too often. But most of the times, the root of duplicate content is technical and can happen without you even noticing.
For instance, some content management systems add session IDs or parameters for tracking to URLs. Or, you might have www and non-www versions of a certain page indexed. Accordingly, you’ll have multiple URLs showing the exact same content.
Besides the technical reasons, your articles can get scraped or copied by other parties. So, there are many different causes for duplicate content, as you can read in this extensive article on duplicate content.
If you want to find out if your site suffers from duplicate content, you can use these duplicate content tools to check your site for issues.
2.5.2. Solutions for duplicate content
How you should solve your duplicate content issue depends on the cause of the issue. In general, there are three ways to go about this — in order of preference:
Whenever possible, avoid creating duplicate content. If your system creates session IDs in the URL, try to turn that off, for instance.
Can’t avoid creating them? 301 redirect those URLs to the original version.
Really need to keep a duplicate article? Make sure to add a canonical link to the original version in the <head> section of the duplicate article. It will show search engines what the original version of the article is, so they can pass the link juice on to the original version. In the next section you’ll find out how easy this is with Yoast SEO.
With Yoast SEO, it’s very easy to add a canonical link to a post or page. No need for a developer! Just go to the Advanced tab in the Yoast SEO metabox below your post or page. There, you’ll find the Canonical URL field where you can enter the URL of the original article — the one you want to point search engines to:
To optimize your site for audiences in several countries or language regions, you’ll need to optimize both your content and your technical setup.
Let’s start with the content aspects of international SEO. Doing targeted keyword research and writing fresh content for each audience is crucial. Take items for clothing, for example. An American vest is a completely different garment from a British vest, or a Dutch vest, or a French vest, or a Spanish vest… you get the point. We don’t recommend using automated translations. Invest time and resources in proper research and translations with which to optimize your keywords and copy.
Another important aspect of international SEO is picking the right domain structure. Generally, a different ccTLD (e.g. www.yoast.de) for every variation is only a good option for very large companies with big budgets. In most cases, subdirectories (e.g. www.yoast.com/de) are the way to go.
Search engines want to display the right language version of your site to each visitor, whatever country they’re from. To help them, you need to implement hreflang. hreflang is code that tells the search engines what language variations of a page are available and helps prevent duplicate content problems. It’s quite a complex piece of code, but our hreflang guide helps you along the way — or, you can take our Multilingual SEO training.
3. Optimize your site structure
A solid site structure helps your users and the search engines navigate your site. On top of that, it will make clear what pages on your website are most important. There are two pillars to a good site structure: organizing your site and contextual internal linking.
3.1. Organize your site
Organizing your site will help you set up a navigation path from your homepage right to your individual posts and pages, and back. Adding categories and subcategories will bring order to chaos. Ideally, your site should be organized as such:
You should always make sure your homepage is clear and easy to navigate. Cluttering the homepage with too many options will make your site more difficult to understand. Adding a clear menu and breadcrumbs helps your user navigate your site wherever they are.
3.2. Connect your content with contextual internal linking
Besides organizing your site, you need to link up your content within your copy. We call this contextual internal linking because these links always appear within the context of a text.
Contextual internal links set up a network of pages, which points your users to related content. In a post on keyword research, for example, linking to an article on SEO copywriting makes a lot of sense. For search engines, these links provide insight into how pages are related to each other as well.
Always make sure that the number of links to a page reflects the importance of that page. Our ultimate guides get a lot of links from individual posts about related topics. This helps users and search engines understand that these guides are crucial pillars of our site.
When adding a contextual internal link, make sure the link makes sense within the context of the current page. Moreover, always use anchor texts which accurately describe the page you’re linking to. This provides users and search engines with the context they need to assess whether the link is useful.
3.3. Manage your categories and tags
WordPress has two default ways of structuring your content: categories and tags. Categories add hierarchy to your content and group topics broadly. On a website about cooking, pasta could be a category. Tags are non-hierarchical and can be used to describe your post in more detail. Dinner party themes, for example, could be a tag.
When setting up your site structure, pick a number of main categories. Adding them to your menu can be a good idea, especially if you only have a blog. If you have a blog and several products, a different setup might make more sense. Make sure your categories are roughly the same size. If your categories become too big, make subcategories. Your category pages can be great landing pages, especially for eCommerce sites
Tags are useful for users exploring topics, but they are often misapplied. It’s important not to use too many tags, and to use them more than once or twice. Remember, you want to group your content, not just give it a description.
If you want to structure your content differently, WordPress also allows you to create custom taxonomies. Always consider carefully whether your custom taxonomy groups content in a way that makes sense and helps your visitors.
3.4. Manage your archive pages
If you use categories and tags, you will automatically create archive pages. These pages contain a list of the posts and pages within a certain category or tag. Besides categories and tags, there are date-based archive pages and author archives. These archive pages need managing because they cause SEO problems if you don’t.
First of all, you want to prevent search engines from indexing archive pages that don’t make sense on your site. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin for this. You do this under SEO → SearchAppearance, where you’ll find the following options on the “Archives” tab:
The settings above are the settings for our site. As you can see, we’ve completely disabled the date-based archives, as we don’t use those. Any date-based link will redirect to our homepage because of this setting. We’ve left the author archives untouched, but we have set the subpages of those archives to be noindex, follow by default. This way, you’ll never land on page two of an archive on our site from the search engines.
If your blog is a one-author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use Yoast SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date-based archive: disable it as we have. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO…
If you have lots of posts on your WordPress site, you might want to think about how your pagination looks and works. Otherwise, you might find that your best content is ‘buried’ deep in your site, and users and search engines may struggle to find it.
There are two things, in particular, you need to think about:
You should consider customizing how your pagination looks and works so that it’s a bit more helpful for users and search engines. We really recommend checking out the WP-PageNavi plugin!
3.5. Configure your breadcrumbs
You’ll probably want to add breadcrumbs to your posts and pages. Breadcrumbs are the links, usually above the title post, that looks like “Home > Articles > WordPress SEO“. They are good for two things:
They allow your users to easily navigate your site.
They allow search engines to determine the structure of your site more easily.
These breadcrumbs should link back to the homepage, and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories it should pick one.
To get breadcrumb navigation to show you on your pages, you may need to adapt your single.php and page.php files in your theme, and include the code for breadcrumbs from the Yoast SEO plugin. You find the settings and instructions on how to do that in the SEO → Search Appearance section.
3.6. Manage your HTML & XML sitemaps
You can use XML sitemaps to tell Google and the other search engines that your site has been updated. Our WordPress SEO plugin automatically configures your XML sitemaps, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We generate sitemaps for your different post types, including your images, and make sure that it generates and loads really quickly.
We intelligently split your sitemaps up into smaller bits, so Google only has to fetch one new XML “sub”-sitemap when a post is published.
You can check and manage which types of your content, archives, and templates should be included in your XML sitemaps in your SEO → Search Appearance settings. Content types which are set to not show in search results will be automatically excluded from your XML sitemaps.
Lastly, our XML sitemaps support has a pretty complete API, allowing developers to add or change functionality through their plugins and themes. Our own Local SEO, News SEO and Video SEO extensions (which generate their own, specific sitemaps) are built on this API, and, other plugins frequently build their own solutions on top of our system.
For larger or more complex sites, it might make sense to provide an HTML sitemap, too. This is a normal page on your website, which helps users navigate to deeper or more specific content.
4. Speed up your WordPress website
If your website is slow, you risk frustrating your users. That makes them less likely to engage, browse, convert, or visit again. That, in turn, can make them less likely to share your content, link to your pages, or recommend your brand.
In short, speed is an important part of WordPress SEO, and a huge part of the overall user experience. That means that it’s critical to measure and manage your performance — especially for users on mobile or slower connections!
4.1. Measure your site speed
Measuring the speed of your site can be confusing. Different tools give different scores and results, and sometimes even give conflicting information.
Once you’ve identified what and where your bottlenecks are, the next challenge is to make hosting, theme, plugin and performance tweaks to speed things up.
WordPress is the most-used platform for website management in the world. It powers 33% of the web (March 2019). While that is awesome, it also means that WordPress is the most targeted platform for hackers. When running a WordPress website, basic security is dealt with by the platform, but there are things you can do yourselves to make your website more secure.
That starts with your own login. The default username in WordPress is admin, so change that first. Otherwise, a hacker’s first guess for your username is just too easy. The same goes for your password. Passwords like ‘123456’ and ‘welcome01’ are just not enough. Use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass and pick a 20+ character password instead. WordPress also has a number of plugins for two-factor verification, so adding that to your website is easy as pie as well. Do it.
The next thing we’d like you to do is create regular backups. In case your site gets hacked, or something else goes wrong — for instance, when updating a plugin or theme —, it’s important that you revert that change in a heartbeat. Regular backups make sure that this can be done.
In WordPress, there is a wide range of backup options to choose from. Several plugin developers have created nice software solutions for you, so you don’t have the technical hassle of that backup. At Yoast, we recommend and have good experiences with the Blogvault backup solution. That service has additional benefits like creating staging sites and easy migration options.
An easy first step is to limit login attempts. By limiting the amount people can try to login to your website — close your login form after five false logins, for example — you are hardening your install against brute force attacks and other malicious acts targeting that form.
The next thing you need to do is to make sure that your WordPress install, including plugins and themes, is always up-to-date. Updates might fix security issues as well. Make sure to check regularly for updates, and keep your WordPress install up-to-date.
Another important thing to realize is that you are dealing with security every time you add a new user or writer to your WordPress install. There’s an article in the WordPress Codex regarding Roles and Capabilities you should read. It comes down to giving permissions only to those that need it when they need it and only for the time they need it. No need to give a guest blogger administrative rights to your website, right?
Authentication Keys and Salts work in conjunction with each other to protect your cookies and passwords in transit between the browser and web server. Make sure to change these keys when installing a new WordPress instance.
Another easy fix that we’d like to mention is to make sure your template files can’t be edited from the WordPress backend. You can do this in Appearance → Editor. When a hacker managed to get passed your login form, this is really the easiest way to add evil code to your website. Hardening this involves changing your wp-config file.
5.3. Use monitoring and logging
Security is an ongoing process. You need to keep a keen eye on any breaches and keep your website as secure as possible. You could put part of your WordPress security in the hands of, for instance, a company like Sucuri. In case of a hack, they fix this asap. For your own monitoring, you could check your site on a regular basis with their Sitecheck tool. There are a couple of plugins that can help you secure your WordPress site by, for instance, monitor files on your server, like WordFence, iThemes or Sucuri. Pick your plugin of choice, as long as you make sure that security is monitored.
It can also be useful to just keep track of everything that’s happening on your website like file changes and logged in users. There are several plugins and tools for that as well, like WP Security Audit Log. Keeping track of these things makes sure that you can find irregularities in your install and act on these, or find what happened when in case of a security issue.
6. Cater to your mobile visitors
People are always on the move these days. From city to city or conference room to conference room. People are waiting in lines, at cinemas, at the bakery, at lunch. And what do we do when we are on the move or waiting? Indeed, we check the weather, read the news, check social media or order clothes in that new online designer shop our friend texted us via Whatsapp, iMessage or Signal. What’s more, our mobile devices are becoming the de facto way of browsing the web, even when we’re at home, lying on our couch. We visit mobile websites. You, as a website owner, need to cater to your mobile visitors.
According to Statcounter, mobile market share surpassed desktop market share almost all of 2018. This means that if you are only optimizing for desktop visitors, you are not optimizing for the majority of your visitors. Of course, it depends on your specific niche, since those numbers could be different. Google Analytics can give you the exact numbers for your site.
With a mobile market share like this, there is no way you can consider your mobile website an ‘extra’. Maybe it’s time to make mobile the default. It’s time for mobile SEO.
6.1. Make sure your theme is mobile-friendly
After making sure that your site is fast, make sure your website, or rather your theme, is mobile-friendly. Making your website mobile-friendly starts with making sure the links are not too close together, and buttons are easily clickable. Your font should be consistent and shouldn’t be too small and your images not too big, both in file size and dimensions.
We’d like to highlight two specific mobile theme optimizations below.
6.1.1. Use responsive design techniques
Responsive design means that the design of your website adapts to the screen size your visitor is using. You can do this by using specific CSS media queries. We wrote about responsive design way back when, but in the basis, things are still the same. You have to address certain ranges of screen widths and design for those. Most WordPress themes should be responsive by now.
Depending on the part of the world you are targeting, no, depending on how fast their mobile internet is (2G? Already at 5G?), you might want to change a couple of things. Think about how you use images on your site. Are you using any text enhancements or font variations that might hinder a good performance of the mobile website? Responsive design helps you build a more focused website. That brings us to the second optimization:
6.1.2. Prioritize what’s important to mobile users
Take a step back and look at your website: what do your users want to do here? Define the four to six main tasks your user performs on your website and focus on these. Maybe even give the most important task a big fat call-to-action button.
Here’s an example: If you have a local business, the two main tasks might be calling you or finding the directions to your business. That means you could add these as a special mobile menu, for instance, — some kind of bar that is visible all the time. Focus on your visitor’s main tasks and make their life as easy as possible. How to find these top tasks? Ask your visitors! Also, check Google Analytics for the most visited pages on your mobile website. More about Analytics further down this article.
6.2. Consider using AMP
If you are using WordPress, you could serve Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well. AMP is a 2015 initiative by Google and some major publishers. It allows for fast mobile pages and does so by stripping some of the design. AMP these days is used for both static content and dynamic content like news articles. AMP has pretty strict code requirements, so be sure to validate your AMP pages frequently.
One of the challenges you as a website owner might have is to make sure the AMP version of your website aligns with your branding. Make sure your visitor — used to visiting your desktop/responsive website — still clearly understands that he or she is visiting your pages. Luckily, the difference between design on all these platforms can be minimalized.
If you are looking to kick-start the AMP version of your WordPress website, be sure to check the official AMP plugin. This will add an AMP version of your website after installing the plugin.
7. Analyze and improve your performance
A good SEO campaign relies not only on implementing changes but also measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works and doing more of that. Google has developed two amazing tools to analyze the results of your website and to identify new opportunities where you could focus on in the future.
The first one, for analyzing results, is Google Analytics. By adding Google Analytics to your website, you make sure all user data will be stored in your own account. You can, for instance, check how many visits your pages get, how many of your visitors convert, how many visitors immediately leave your website after landing on a certain page and much more. Within Google Analytics, you can see how visitors behave on your website. Here’s how to track your SEO with Google Analytics.
The second tool is meant to analyze how your website performs and to see how visitors find you in the search engine. That tool is Google Search Console. By exporting and sorting through your search queries and impression data, it’s easy to identify opportunities where you could focus on improving clickthrough rates, content, and/or rankings.
7.1. Set up and integrate Google Analytics
To start with Google Analytics, you need to create an account. Click the ‘Start for free’ button to start. To set up your account, you need to add an Account Name first. This could be your company name. However, when you’re about to add other websites to your account, we recommend choosing a more generic Account Name. Also, you can always change your Account Name later when you want to.
After setting up your account, it’s time to add a property: the website you want to add. Insert the Website Name and the Website URL. Make sure you add the precise URL: http:// or https:// and with or without www for collecting the right data.
After setting up your property you can choose for yourself if you want to enable, some of the data sharing settings. Each data sharing option gives you a clear explanation of what you will be sharing enabling it.
Now you’re almost ready to go! The last step to connect your website to your new Google Analytics account is adding the tracking code to your website. After successfully creating your account and adding a new property you’ll see this screen with your Google Analytics tracking code on top:
This tag needs to be added to your website. The easiest way to do this within WordPress is by installing a Google Analytics plugin such as the MonsterInsights Plugin for WordPress. Installing this plugin, you don’t need to touch the actual code of your website to connect with Google Analytics. You just simply install and activate the plugin, insert your tracking ID and you’re set!
For more technical readers, it’s also possible to add the tag manually to the head of every webpage or to add the tag to Google Tag Manager.
Now your website is connected to Google Analytics, it will start collecting data of your users. Start clicking around to see what all can be found within the data or start reading one of our blog posts about Google Analytics for helpful tips.
Create or sign in to your Google Search Console account.
Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.
Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.
Verify your website — within the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily copy and paste the meta tag to make it work.
After connecting your website to Google Search Console, it will start collecting data about the performance of your website. Connecting through Yoast SEO, you can also immediately find errors within the WordPress backend and easily create redirects to reduce the number of errors when you have an Yoast SEO Premium subscription.
7.3. Other useful tools
Of course, there are plenty of other useful tools out there to get valuable insights into your website and to find SEO opportunities. Everyone has their own favorite tools, so it’s important to just start playing with different tools to find out what tool brings you what you need most.
There are all-in-one SEO tools which give you a complete overview of your performance and there are more in-depth tools which give you more specific data. Think about site speed tools, duplicate content tools, site analysis tools, keyword research tools and much more.
Some tools we use besides Google Analytics and Google Search Console:
Bing Webmaster Tools
Within the Source/Medium section of Google Analytics, you can see what percentage of your traffic is coming from Bing. When this is a sufficient amount of traffic, you might want to create a Bing Webmaster Tools account as well. Bing Webmaster Tools is the Google Search Console variant for Bing. It shows you your site’s health and performance in the Bing search results.
Ryte is one of the all-in-one SEO suites you could use to analyze on-page SEO. The tool crawls your website to give you a bunch of data on indexation, errors, links, speed and much more. You can try Ryte for free to see what it has in it for you. Ryte even integrates with Yoast SEO.
Google Lighthouse is a Chrome extension which you can download for free. With the Lighthouse tool, you can easily generate a report with scores for Performance, Progressive Web App, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. This report will give you a quick overview of how your site is doing and you can immediately start working on the areas that need the most attention. You can also use the web-based version on web.dev/measure.
To get insights on how your visitors actually move, scroll and click on your webpages, you could use a tool like Hotjar. This user research tool also has options to add polls or surveys to your site to start doing research. You can try it for free, and the paid packages have competitive prices.
You put a lot of time and effort into the content of your site and making sure that readers can find that content via search engines thanks to SEO, but there are other ways to get people to visit your WordPress site and read your posts. But how do you get and grow such an audience? Simply writing posts and putting these out there won’t do the trick: you need to promote your site!
8.1. Encourage engagement
It’s always fun to interact with your readers, but how do you get them to engage? With engagement, we mean all the different ways people can interact with your post. It could be leaving a comment, sharing it on social media or taking action on the topic in general.
But how do you get people to engage? You can always ask them! Write in an engaging way, and then ask your readers for their opinion. Then respond to these comments in order to keep the conversation going and build a relationship with your readers.
Engagement also benefits SEO, as it shows that your site is alive and active. If you want to dive deeper into blog engagement, you can read our post on how you can increase blog engagement.
8.2. Grow your reach
Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. You should be active on the social media channels where your (potential) audience is present. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are examples of popular social media. It might be a lot to decide on, so you can find out more in our blog post on social media strategy: where to begin?
8.3. Build a mailing list
In addition to using social media to promote your blog, it is often a good idea to invest in a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.
Make sure that you offer a subscribe field beneath your posts and on other visible places on your website. Make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly. But, most of all, make sure your newsletter is truly something special! We use MailChimp for our newsletter, which is free up until 2,000 subscribers.
8.4. Amplify your content
The number of blog posts published every day is enormous, which is why it’s becoming much harder to stand out. Your articles have a big chance of getting lost in the vast sea of content. To help your content reach its full potential you need to amplify it.
If your content is original and well-structured, you’re probably able to reach new audiences. Take a look at how you can reach new audiences, beyond your organic reach.
Maybe advertising on Facebook or Instagram might be a good way to reach new audiences for your content? Analyze what channels you already use and decide where you can do more in order to broaden your audience.
This guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do on your WordPress site. It goes from technical SEO tips to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.
You’re competing with every other website and business on the planet for attention, visitors, and outcomes. That means you have to put in a lot of hard work!
But don’t worry — we’re here to help.
So if you want to keep updated on the latest news about WordPress, SEO, and our plugins, then you can subscribe to our newsletter and stay one step ahead of the competition!
In the meantime, want to reread this ultimate WordPress SEO guide?
You’ve probably heard that doing keyword research is an essential, first step in optimizing your website properly. But how about these keywords: can they only be single words or can they also be longer multi-word keyphrases? And what exactly is the difference between the two? In this SEO basics post, we’ll explain the difference between a keyword and a keyphrase.
What is a keyword?
Keyphrase versus long tail keyword You’ve probably also heard of long tail keywords and that these are more specific than focus keywords. Most of the time – but not necessarily – they consist of more words. You might wonder what the difference is between long tail keywords and keyphrases? Keyphrases by definition exist of more than one word and they can be either general or specific. Long tail keywords may consist of more words, but they do not always. The main difference between the two is that keyphrases can be general or specific, e.g. [puppy training] or [puppy training for deaf dogs] whilst long tail keywords are always more specific [puppy training location in LA].
A (focus) keyword is a word that describes the content of your page or post best. It’s the search term that you want to rank for with a certain page. So when people search for that keyword in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.
E.g. Your website is about dogs, and you’ve just written a blog post all about puppies. The keyword that describes the content of that post best is probably: “puppy”.
What is a keyphrase?
A (focus) keyphrase is the search term that you most want your post or page to rank for, so when people search for that keyphrase, they should find you.
E.g. Your website is all about dogs, and you’ve just written a blog post all about how puppies can become obedient. The keyphrase that describes the content of the post best is something along the lines of: “puppy obedience training”
What are the differences?
Keywords or keyphrases should both describe the essence of what the post is about. The difference between the two is that keywords are single words, while keyphrases are made up of a few words.
On your site, you’ll probably have a few articles that are most dear to your heart. Articles you desperately want people to read. Articles you want people to find with Google. At Yoast, we call these articles your cornerstone articles. How does the Yoast SEO plugin help you set up a cornerstone content strategy? I’ll tell you all about that in this blog post.
What is cornerstone content?
Cornerstone content consists of those articles that you’re most proud of. The articles that reflect the mission of your company perfectly, and the ones you definitely want to rank well. In general, cornerstone articles are lengthy, and they tend to be informative.
Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to using a cornerstone content strategy. It is worth your time, though! Think about the posts or pages on your site. Which are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? Choose these to be your cornerstone content.
You should keep your cornerstones fresh and up to date.
Yoast SEO will help you take care of all of these things!
1. Write awesome articles
The SEO and readability analysis in Yoast SEO will give you feedback on your writing. If you consider a post to be one of your cornerstone content articles, you should toggle the switch to ‘on’ in the ‘cornerstone content’ tab, underneath the ‘focus keyphrase’ tab.
Our SEO analysis will help you optimize your blog post for the search engines. For cornerstone content, you have to go the extra mile. Make sure you use your focus keyphrase enough, mention it in a few headings, and optimize your images. Readability is equally important, though. Our readability analysis helps you to, for instance, use enough headings and to write in short, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs.
2. Incorporate cornerstone content in your site structure
You have to link to your cornerstone articles to make them rank high in the search engines. By linking to your favorite articles often, you’ll tell Google that these are the ones that are most important. Think of it as a map: big cities have considerably more roads leading towards them than small towns. Those cities are your cornerstones. They should receive most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. If you build your site structure like this, you won’t be competing with your own content for a place in the search engines.
Yoast SEO has two useful features to help you link to your cornerstone content articles.
Using our internal linking tool will remind you to link to your cornerstones whenever you’re writing a new post. As a result, your cornerstones will stay on top in your linking structure. And that’s what they need to start ranking.
Text link counter
The text link counter allows you to see all the internal links you’ve put in a post and all internal links to a post from your other pages. This tool provides you with a clear overview of the distribution of your internal links. Make sure to check (and keep checking) if your cornerstone articles receive enough internal links!
3. Keep your cornerstones up to date
Regularly updating your cornerstone content is important for your cornerstone strategy. After all, your cornerstones should be timeless, and therefore, always contain the latest insights. If you have Yoast SEO Premium installed, you’ll have an additional feature to help you keep your cornerstones up to date. The stale cornerstone content filter allows you to see at a glance which of your cornerstones need updating. It works in both your post overview, and your pages overview. Neat, right?
Of course, at Yoast, we practice what we preach, so you’ll find no stale content here ;-)
Cornerstone content strategy made simple with Yoast SEO
Your cornerstone content strategy consists of several elements. Your cornerstone content articles should be informative, nice to read and well-optimized. In addition to that, they should have a prominent place in your site’s structure. Yoast SEO helps you achieve both these things. And last but not least, the Premium plugin helps you keep your cornerstones fresh and up to date. Don’t skimp on optimizing your cornerstones: they deserve that little bit of extra attention!
Sue and John have a little baby. His name is Jack. Jack is 10 weeks old and cries a lot. Sue and John don’t know how to stop Jack’s crying. They get very nervous of his crying, the sleep poorly, they are agitated, tired and scared. One day, a good friend gives them a present. It is a baby carrier and it’s supposed to help calm their baby. John decides to give the baby carrier a try. Jack loves the carrier. He instantly relaxes, stops crying and falls asleep. From that moment on, Sue and John carried Jack in their baby carrier all day long.
Storytelling is a great strategy to use on your product pages. But why is storytelling such an effective tool to use on your product pages? And how could you use storytelling on your own e-commerce site yourself? In this blog post, I’ll explain why storytelling is effective on product and sales pages. I will also share some tips on how you could use storytelling on your product pages.
You’ll probably use storytelling without knowing it
Most of you will already be using storytelling on their product pages. You just don’t realize it yet. It’s actually rather hard to write product pages without telling a story. In your copy, you’ll probably already are describing why your product is so very awesome. Most of you will use examples to do that. Examples are stories.
You’ll probably have some reviews or testimonials on your site as well. These are stories too. Maybe you did not think about these things as stories, but that’s what they are. Treating examples, cases, reviews, and testimonials as little stories will help you improve your product pages for sure. Let’s look at some tips on how to effectively use storytelling on your product pages.
Why is storytelling such an effective strategy to use on product pages?
Show, don’t tell…
Storytelling is effective in product pages because it allows you to show people why your product is so very awesome, instead of just telling them that. I could tell you all about our fantastic SEO courses (they truly are amazing), but it would be much more convincing if I showed you why they are amazing.
A story about a client that did not understand SEO at first and made some major improvements (and a lot of money) would be much more convincing, than me telling you about it. A baby carrier company could tell you about their product and how it soothes and relaxes babies, but the story of baby Jack from the intro of this post is probably more convincing.
Focus on the problem instead of the product
Stories need a problem and focussing on the problem usually results in great sales copy. Remember the four elements of a good story I wrote about in my previous post? For a good story, you’ll need a character, a problem, action, and a solution. If you use stories on your product pages, you’ll automatically shift away from your product to the problem and the solution your product offers. Your sales copy will benefit from that!
How to use storytelling on product pages?
Stories are a great way to convince people to buy your product. Let’s look at three simple ways to use storytelling on your product pages.
Reviews and testimonials are little stories
Every review, every testimonial is a little story. You probably know that testimonials increase trust. Real customers, share real experiences. Those experiences increase trust.
Treating testimonials and reviews as stories will allow you to make them more powerful! A good story requires a character, a problem, action, and a solution. If you ask people to write testimonials, ask them to use the four elements as well. That way, testimonials will read as little stories.
Ask people to tell a little bit about themselves. Make them human; make sure that people can relate to this person. A good story also needs a problem. Ask people to talk about their situation before using your product. Ask them why they purchased your product (that’s the action in the story) and how their situation changed after they started using your product (the solution).
Collect user stories
Collect success stories! You can ask people to write testimonials, but you can also ask for input and write the stories yourself.
Ask your customers to share their experiences with your products. Ask them how the product improved their lives. Use that feedback of your customers to write little stories. Add photos and details of these persons to show your audience that these are real people. Pictures or even video of people actually using your product would be even more impressive. Your customers’ success stories are a great way to show new users why your product is so very awesome.
The introduction of this blog post is an example of a short user story. Sue and John had a problem: Jack, their baby, wouldn’t stop crying. They tried a product: the baby carrier, and it solved their problem.
Write example stories
Explaining what your product does can be rather challenging. Often, this type of content can be a bit dry. Explaining all the features of the Yoast SEO plugin does not necessarily make for compelling copy. Using an example story could clarify a lot.
In an example story you could, for instance, introduce a persona that is facing a problem. Perhaps the persona wants to get more traffic to her site but does not know where to start. In the story, you’ll explain how your product solved the problem of the persona in your story. We could highlight our most important features of Yoast SEO in the story and show a remarkable increase in traffic after the persona started using these features.
Conclusion on storytelling and product pages
Stories are a great way to convince people to buy a product. Using stories will automatically shift the focus of your copy away from your product to the problem and your audience. That’s a good thing; it’ll make your sales copy much more engaging!
Stories are particularly powerful if people can relate to the characters in your stories. Always make sure your stories on your product pages are about real people. Add details to make the stories more real and lively. That’ll make it easier for people to relate to the characters in your stories. Add photos and videos to make the stories even more real.
On Yoast.com, we talk a lot about writing and readability. We consider it a very important part of good SEO. Your text needs to satisfy your users’ needs. This, in turn, will help your rankings. However, we rarely talk about how Google and other search engines read and understand texts. In this post, we’ll explore what we know about how Google analyzes online text.
Are we sure Google understands text?
We know that Google understands text to some degree. Think about it: one of the most important things Google has to do is match what the user types into the search bar to a search result. User signals alone won’t help Google to do this. Moreover, we also know that it is possible to rank for a phrase that you don’t use in your text (although it’s still good practice to identify and use one or more specific keyphrases). So clearly, Google does something to actually read and assess your text in some way or another.
What is the current status?
I’m going to be honest. We don’t really know how Google understands texts. The information simply isn’t freely available. And we also know, judging from the search results, that a lot of work is still to be done. But there are some clues here and there that we can draw conclusions from. We know that Google has taken big steps when it comes to understanding context. We also know that it tries to determine how words and concepts are related to each other. How do we know this? On the one hand, by analyzing some of the patents Google has filed over the years. On the other hand, by considering how actual search results pages have changed.
One interesting technique Google has filed patents for and worked on is called word embedding. I’ll save the details for another post, but the goal is basically to find out what words are closely related to other words. This is what happens: a computer program is fed a certain amount of text. It then analyzes the words in that text and determines what words tend to occur together. Then, it translates every word into a series of numbers. This allows the words to be represented as a point in space in a diagram, a scatter plot, for example. This diagram shows what words are related in what ways. More accurately, it shows the distance between words, sort of like a galaxy made up of words. So for example, a word like “keywords” would be much closer to “copywriting” in this space than it would be to “kitchen utensils”.
Interestingly, you can do this not only for words, but for phrases, sentences and paragraphs as well. The bigger the data set you feed the program, the better it will be able to categorize and understand words and work out how they’re used and what they mean. And, what do you know, Google has a database of the entire internet. How’s that for a dataset? With a dataset like that, it’s possible to create reliable models that predict and assess the value of text and context.
From word embeddings, it’s only a small step to the concept of related entities (see what I did there?). Let’s take a look at the search results to illustrate what related entities are. If you type in “types of pasta”, this is what you’ll see right at the top of the SERP: a heading called “pasta varieties”, with a number of rich cards that include a ton of different types of pasta. These pasta varieties are even subcategorized into “ribbon pasta”, “tubular pasta”, and several other subtypes of pasta. And there are lots and lots of similar SERPs that reflect the way words and concepts are related to each other.
The related entities patent that Google has filed actually mentions the related entities index database. This is a database in which concepts or entities, like pasta, are stored. These entities also have characteristics. Lasagna, for example, is a pasta. It’s also made of dough. And it’s a food. Now, by analyzing the characteristics of entities, they can be grouped and categorized in all kinds of different ways. This allows Google to better understand how words are related, and, therefore, to better understand context.
Now, all of this leads us to two very important points:
If Google understands context in some way or another, it’s likely to assess and judge context as well. The better your copy matches Google’s notion of the context, the better its chances. So thin copy with limited scope is going to be at a disadvantage. You’ll need to cover your topics exhaustively. And on a larger scale, covering related concepts and presenting a full body of work on your site will reinforce your authority on the topic you specialize in.
Easier texts which clearly reflect relationships between concepts don’t just benefit your readers, they help Google as well. Difficult, inconsistent and poorly structured writing is more difficult to understand for both humans and machines. You can help the search engine understand your texts by focusing on:
Good readability (that is to say, making your text as easy-to-read as possible without compromising your message).
Good structure (that is to say, adding clear subheadings and transitions).
Good context (that is to say, adding clear explanations that show how what you’re saying relates to what is already known about a topic).
The better you do, the easier your users and Google alike will understand your text and what it tries to achieve. Especially because Google seems to basically be trying to create a model that mimics the way us humans process language and information. And yes, adding your keyphrase to your text still helps Google to match your page to a query.
Google wants to be a reader
In the end, the message is this: Google is trying to be, and becoming, more and more like an actual reader. By writing rich content which is well-structured and easy to read and is clearly embedded into the context of the topic at hand, you’ll improve your chances of doing well in the search results.
Sometimes it’s the little things that count. The new SEO analysis introduced in Yoast SEO 10.0 also comes with a new feature for Premium users: the stale cornerstone content filter. This handy little tool monitors the posts you’ve marked as cornerstone content and warns you if they haven’t been updated for six months. As you know, cornerstone content is extremely important and keeping these up to date imperative. That’s why we remind you to do so!
Need help keeping your cornerstone content in tip top shape? You’re in luck! While celebrating the release of Yoast SEO 10.0, you get 10% off Yoast SEO Premium! Now is the best time to get access to all awesome features.
It’s your most important content — treat it so!
Cornerstone content forms the heart and soul of your site. This is your crucial content that you want to rank in search engines. This content should show how authoritative you are on your chosen subject. You should give cornerstone content extra special care and keep it updated so it doesn’t lose its edge or valuation.
But we get it — it’s easy to forget things like this. There’s always so much work do on your site. That’s exactly why we introduced this stale content filter. It helps you keep essential content on your site fresh and updated. As you’ve marked specific articles as cornerstone content — thus being very important to you and your audience —, we treat them differently. Thanks to the cornerstone analysis, we grade them stricter and now also keep track of whether you keep them updated or not. If you haven’t done that in six months, we show a notification reminding you to do that. Easy, right? If not, read our article on how to keep your content fresh.
How does the stale cornerstone content filter work?
The stale cornerstone content filter is incredibly easy to use as you don’t have to do anything! If you’re anything like us, you’ll never notice it as we try to keep our ultimate guides — our cornerstone content — updated at all times. But if one should slip through the net, we’ll now see it in the post overview of our WordPress dashboard. Just to the left of the cornerstone content filter you’ll find the stale content filter. Does it have a number next to it? Then you have one or more articles that haven’t been updated in at least six months. Click on the filter to see the posts in the post overview.
See the screenshot below:
Then what? Well, that’s up to you! It’s high-time to start working on that post. The least you can do, is read it again critically to see if it is still factual, accurate and relevant. If so, and nothing has changed in your company, market or niche that could warrant an update process, just make some small changes and save the post — the notification will be gone. But in most cases, there’s a lot that can happen in six months and it will be a good idea to reevaluate your content and add, delete or rewrite parts of it. It’s also a good idea to come up with a strategy for your cornerstone content.
Always strive for the best!
If you want to rank, you need to put your heart and soul into your work. Your site must be of impeccable quality, full of high-quality, engaging and relevant content. And that’s a lot of work. We know, because we are in the same position as you. Sometimes, we too find ourselves struggling to keep up and making sense of this never-ending stream of content. Luckily, little helpers like the stale content filter helps to keeps us on our toes!
People like reading stories. Stories are a great way to captivate your audience. But how do you use stories in a blog post? And, how do you come up with ideas? In a previous post, I wrote about why you should use storytelling. In this post, I’ll give you 6 tips on how to start using storytelling in your blog posts.
But first, let’s start with a little story:
Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name was Mary. Mary was a copywriter. She wrote wonderful content for travel agencies and several magazines. Mary used a lot of storytelling in her work. She was very good at it. But last week, her inspiration was terribly low. She was a bit ill. Nevertheless, her deadlines were approaching. Mary felt stressed. To meet her deadlines, she added some stories from her own experience to one of her articles. She was afraid her editor would frown upon that, but he actually loved it. And, so did her readers.
Tip 1: Use stories as examples
If you do not know how to start with storytelling, then start using stories as examples. Of course, you don’t have to start every story with ‘once upon a time’. You can use short anecdotes or stories from your readers to make a blog post more entertaining. Examples make your blog post lively and nice to read.
Tip 2: Get inspiration from your own world
Coming up with ideas for stories can be difficult. So, use the world around you for inspiration. A little talk with a neighbor, a funny thing your daughter did, something that happened during your lunch break: these are all little stories. Lots of the stories I use in my posts come from my own experiences. Mary, in the story I wrote at the beginning of this post, is actually me. The story about Wende, from my previous post about storytelling, really happened. Wende is my daughter. You don’t need to do extensive research for every story. Stories are everywhere.
Tip 3: Make sure your story aligns with the message of your post
If you use a story in your blog post, you need to make sure that the story aligns with the message of your post. Stories are fun and nice to read, but they only become powerful if they actually mean something. Every story has a meaning, something you want people to learn from that specific story. The meaning of the story should align with the message of your post.
The story about Mary I used in this post is about someone who is using storytelling. This post is about storytelling. Mary has a hard time coming up with ideas for a story. She decides to get inspiration from her own world and writes a personal story, which turns out nicely. In this post, I’m advising you to get inspiration from your own world and make sure to add a personal touch to a story. The story about Mary aligns with the message of this post.
Tip 4: Use the 4 elements of storytelling
A good story needs 4 elements: a character, a problem, an action, and a solution. If you write a story, try to put these four elements in it. You’ll probably do that without giving it much thought. Let’s look at the four elements of storytelling in a bit more detail:
You need to introduce a character. In my story that’s Mary. A main character that is perfectly happy does not make for a good story. The character should aspire to something or solve something. The character needs a problem. Mary’s problem was her lack of inspiration. The third thing you need is action. A story requires the main character to do something to solve the problem. Mary took a chance and added some personal stories to her copywriting. The last thing in a story is a solution. The solution is the end of the story. The problem or conflict should be solved. The readers liked her personal stories; Mary was successful.
Tip 5: Make it personal and relatable
Try to make your stories personal. Write a story about someone people can relate to. People like people. Stories are more powerful if people are able to emotionally relate to the main character. Add details, make your character into someone readers understand and relate to.
Tip 6: Add images
My last tip for powerful storytelling is to add images to your stories. If you tell a story about a person who is using your product, add a picture of this person. That’ll make the person easier to relate to. Add an illustration to your story. Illustrations will make the story easier to grasp. It will make your message more clear. And, it will make it more fun.
Conclusion on how to use storytelling
Storytelling doesn’t have to be a ‘grand thing’. There are many ways to implement it. Draw inspiration from your own experiences and write stories that fit the message of your post well. Using interviews is also a good way of telling a story. You’ll get a personal story through an interview. And if you would like to make your blog a little more personal or more fun, try to use anecdotes. Little stories. Things that happened to you. These little anecdotes, examples, personal experiences will just add that personal touch to your blog that makes it so much more enjoyable to read.
In the next post in this series about storytelling, I’ll give tips on how to use storytelling on an eCommerce website.