Don’t make your focus keywords too long

It can be a great strategy to focus on long-tail keywords. But don’t go overboard! If you make your keyphrase too long and use it often in your copy, the quality of your copy might suffer. That’s why Yoast SEO checks if your focus keyword isn’t too long. How does that work? And, what should be your strategy for those long keywords? Let me tell you all about long focus keywords here.

Focus keywords and focus keyphrases

If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin to optimize your posts and pages, you’re probably used to filling out your focus keyword or phrase: the word(s) you want that specific post to be found for. A focus keyword hardly ever is a single word though; It usually consists of a few words. Therefore, we renamed it focus keyphrase a while ago.

For instance, if you want your blog post to rank for the term [raspberry flavored green tea], you should enter these words in the focus keyphrase field. The plugin will then give you pointers on how to optimize your post for that term. Choosing what terms you want to be found for is hard – the competition is fierce! – so you’ll need to do some proper keyword research to come up with the right terms.

Read more: How to choose the perfect focus keyphrase »

Why long keyphrases?

Using long keyphrases can be a good SEO strategy. A longer keyphrase means more specificity and less competition in the search engines. That’s why focusing on very specific, long-tail keywords might get you higher rankings and more, high-quality traffic to your website. Combining such a strategy with cornerstone content and a great internal linking structure is very smart.

But why then, do we throw off a warning when your focus keyphrase is too long?

What’s too long?

To answer this question we’ll have to explain a bit what Yoast SEO does with your keyphrase, and which words in the keyphrase we count when assessing your keyphrase length.

Yoast SEO mimics Google

Google is capable of recognizing the separate words from longer search terms, even if the words are not in the exact same order as the query. For instance, if you Google [easy to use and short site structure guide] you’ll get these results:

Google highlights the words (and word forms) of your keyphrase in the search results

You can see that Google highlights the words (and different word forms) of this search term in the search results, even though they’re not in the exact same order as the original query.

Yoast SEO tries to mimic Google’s behavior. It chops your keyphrase into pieces and then uses these words in various SEO assessments. For instance, in our keyphrase density check, we’ll check whether these words appear close to each other somewhere in your copy. We won’t look for an exact match of the focus keyphrase in this check, because if you write naturally you’d probably variate the order of those words in your sentences.

In particular languages, we’re even able to filter out function words like “the” or “and” or “if”. We’ll just keep the so-called “content words“, which carry the most meaning. And, in Yoast SEO Premium, we’re also able to check for different word forms and synonyms of the words in your keyphrase.

The keyphrase length assessment

Back to the length of your keyphrase. In Yoast SEO, we’ll check how long your keyphrase is. And we’ll provide you with feedback if it’s too long. If it’s too long this might jeopardize the readability of your copy. Imagine using [easy to use and short site structure guide] more often in your copy. Even if you don’t have to write those exact words in the same order, this will probably result in a strange and unnatural text.

The boundaries we use for this assessment depend on whether we can take out the function words for your language or not. If we can, the boundary is four words. If we can’t take them out, the boundary is six words. If your keyphrase is longer than that, you’ll find an orange or red bullet in the SEO assessment of your post!

What should you do with those extra words?

If you’re on Yoast SEO you should reduce your focus keyphrase to the most important words you want this post to rank for. Of course, you can use the other words in your copy as well. But in order to be able to see if you use them often enough (and if you could rank for them!), you should use the related keyphrase functionality in Yoast SEO premium.

For example, if you want to rank for the keyphrase [easy to use and short site structure guide], I would advise optimizing your post for [easy site structure guide] and use the related keyphrase field for [short site structure guide]. Of course, you can use this field for more topical keyphrases too. In this case, [internal linking] would be a nice, on-topic example. If you optimize your posts this way, you’ll make sure you’re optimizing for all the specifics of your long-tail focus keyword.

This functionality of Yoast SEO Premium enables you to focus on multiple aspects of a long-tail keyword. The readability of your text will not suffer, and you’ll still make sure you cover all the aspects of a long search term in your writing. Plus, you’ll be able to enter synonyms of your keyphrase too! Read here why you should use synonyms in your text.

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Why you should use synonyms and related keywords

SEOs like keywords. These are the words people search for. The words that make your posts and pages rank. You put a lot of effort into finding that perfect keyword to optimize your article for. So, why shouldn’t you use that exact keyword over and over again? Why should you use synonyms and related keywords? Will doing that help improve your rankings? Well: Yes! As a matter of fact: using synonyms and related keywords the right way will most definitely help you rank. In this post, I’ll explain why. 

A good writer mixes things up!

The most important reason why you should use synonyms and related keywords is because it will make your text so much nicer to read. If you write a text about ‘candy’ and you use the word ‘candy’ in every other sentence, your text will get boring. Your readers will stop reading and click away. You’ll lose your audience. That’s why you should mix things up. Words like ‘sweets’ and ‘delicacy’ could serve as synonyms for ‘candy’. Related keywords would be ‘chocolate’ and ‘sugar,’ which aren’t real synonyms for ‘candy’, but still relevant. 

For a text to be attractive to a reader, it should be very varied. You can vary with a lot of things. For instance, you can try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. That makes a text much more attractive. You can also try to alternate the sequence of words. But the most important tool is to vary with the exact words you use. Especially if you’re trying to rank for a long tail keyphrase such as ‘candy store New York’. Using that exact key phrase in a lot of sentences will make it awful to read. Using synonyms and related keywords, on the other hand, makes a text much more attractive.

But wait: what about keyword density?

Of course, it is important to use your focus keyword regularly, but you should not overdo it. In the old days, SEOs tended to stuff their texts with a lot of keywords. That way, Google would understand what the text was about and rank it accordingly. But Google is not that stupid anymore. It can read and understand texts. 

If you search for ‘candy store New York’ you’ll get results from Google with content from ‘candy stores’ as well as ‘candy shops’. Google understands that ‘store’ and ‘shop’ are synonyms, and treats them as such. 

Snippets from the search result page for the search ‘candy store New York’

It is important to use your focus keyword a few times throughout your post. The focus keyword is the word or phrase your audience is searching for. That exact match remains important. These are the words your audience uses, the words your audience expects to find. But, instead of using your focus keyword over and over again, you should mix things up with synonyms and related keywords.

How often should you use synonyms?

The usage of synonyms versus the use of the focus keywords is no exact science. The most important criterion is the reader. So, read and re-read your text. Is it text nice and easy to read? Or are you getting annoyed by the constant use of a certain term? Let other people read your text. Ask them for feedback. 

If you need more guidance, Yoast SEO will help you to use synonyms and related keywords as well. In Yoast SEO Premium, you can add synonyms of your focus keyword. The plugin can check if you’ve used those synonyms in, for instance, your meta description, introduction, subheadings or image alt text. Moreover, our keyphrase distribution check (added in Yoast SEO 7.8) will reward you for alternately using your keyphrase and its synonyms throughout your text.

One step further: use those synonyms to your advantage

Google understands texts and takes related concepts and synonyms into account. In the old days, Google wasn’t that smart. But nowadays, it wants to serve its users the best result. It is able to recognize related entities. In the end, Google just wants to serve readable texts.

So make sure you deliver! Think of synonyms for your keyword or keyphrase and use them to your advantage. Take a moment and try to come up with a few alternatives for your keyword. Think of things that are strongly related to your keyword. Enter these words in our SEO analysis and make sure to use those in your text. You’ll increase your chances to rank, and more importantly: your content will be more pleasant to read if you use synonyms and related keywords!

Conclusion

Keywords remain essential. These are the words your audience is searching for. People searching for ‘candy’ will probably not click on a result with ‘delicacy’ in the text. If you search for ‘candy’ you’ll expect to see that exact word in the search results. Therefore, exact match keywords remain the most important keywords.

That being said, synonyms and related concepts are very important as well. You just need those to write a readable text. You can’t repeat yourself over and over, especially if you’re optimizing your text for a long tail keyword. Furthermore, using synonyms and related keywords may create ranking opportunities you’d otherwise have missed. In Yoast SEO premium, we offer all the features you need to take into account word forms, synonyms and related keywords. 

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How to Yoast your post

Do you want your articles to be as well optimized as possible? Do you aim for that number 1 position in the search results? And do you madly chase traffic and clicks? It’s not easy to achieve all these things entirely on your own, but luckily, Yoast is here to help. In this post, we’ll talk you to the process of optimizing your post in the best possible way. We’ll explain the five steps on how to Yoast your post.

Writing comes first, Yoast comes second

Optimizing your post is important, but should never come first. Writing has three phases. It doesn’t really matter if you’re writing a blog post or an article, or a novel even. First, you prepare, then you write and finally you edit. In that final editing phase, you will be able to Yoast your post.

Preparation is key

Before you start writing an article you should ask yourself some questions: What will be the main message of your post? What do you want to tell people? And: who are my readers? What search terms do I want to be found for?

You need to know who you are writing for and what their goal, or search intent is. What does that mean for the keywords you should use to be found in the search engines? You should take some time to think about what you want to tell your audience and what the structure of your text will look like. Preparing your blog post is crucial. If you do not think about these questions long and hard, you’ll make mistakes like addressing the wrong audience, focusing on the wrong keywords or writing an article that’s badly structured and unfocused.

Write your content

After you’ve thoroughly prepared your blog post or article, you can start the writing phase. Make sure to start with filling out your focus key phrases and synonyms. What are the terms you want to be found for?

Writing should be something you just do. In the preparing-phase you have thought about what you’re going to write, so, in the writing phase, you should just go with the flow. Don’t overthink. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll have the third – and most important phase- to correct and Yoast your post.

Editing: let’s Yoast it!

In the final phase, the editing phase, you’ll be able to really Yoast your post. So, let’s look at the five steps you should take in order to optimize your post to the max.

  1. Make sure your text is readable

    The first step on how to Yoast your post is to check out our readability analysis. You could keep an eye on our readability analysis during your writing phase too, if you like. If your overall readability analysis is green, you’re good to go. But, perhaps, you use sentences that are a little bit too long. Or, you have been using the passive voice too often. Correct those readability issues and make your text nice and easy to read. Check out our article about the readability analysis for more tips.

  2. Check out your snippet preview

    You want people to click on your results in the search result pages. In order to make your result stand out, you need to write a kickass meta description. Let people know they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site! So make an effort and choose a title and a meta description that really stands out. Read our article on how to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description if you want more practical tips.

  3. Which SEO bullets need improvement?

    The third step on how to Yoast your post is to check out the SEO analysis. Which aspects of your SEO need improvement? Perhaps you should use your keyword or its synonym a bit more often? Or maybe you’re already overdoing it? What about headings and images?

    Check out the problems and improvements the Yoast SEO analysis indicates. Usually, you can easily make some tweaks that’ll make your copy a little better optimized for the search engines. But don’t overdo it! You do not need all green bullets. If your overall SEO bullet is green, you’re good to go!

  4. Add those internal links

    To really Yoast your post, we would advise you to take some time to think about your internal linking structure and to work on improving it. Are you linking to your most important articles? Are you linking to the articles that are most closely related to the article you’re currently writing? Make sure your site structure is tip-top. This will pay off in terms of rankings. Read more about the power of internal linking in our article about why you should use Yoast internal linking.

  5. Read and reread!

    Our SEO analysis is a tool. It is not just any tool, we’ve thoroughly evaluated all of the checks in a recent recalibration project. That being said, it remains a tool. You should always think for yourself. Read your blog post after you’re done editing and optimizing. Reread it. Let other people read it. That’s the final step to get your blog post to that next level.

Yoast your post

Writing is hard. Optimizing your post is hard. Yoast tries to make it a bit more easy for you. We’ll check things and make suggestions for improvements. We’ll help you to Yoast your post. But in the end, it’ll always remain hard work.

Good luck! Let’s Yoast it!

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How to get a Google answer box

Did you notice Google is offering fewer options for your search results to shine? It seems like Google regularly adds a new box to the search result pages that answers searchers’ questions immediately, without them having to click on anything. For instance, type in [Blade Runner 2049] and you’ll be bombarded by four ads, a full knowledge graph panel, showtimes for the movie, top stories and Twitter feeds until you finally reach the first organic result. Google’s push to rich results not only brings challenges but also opportunities: answer boxes can make you an instant star in the search results. Find out how to get a Google answer box.

Update: Since the 11.0 release, Yoast SEO builds a full structured data graph for every post or page on your site! A graph is a complete piece of structured data with well-defined connections to all the different parts. Search engines now not only know what all the parts mean but also how they fit together. Want to know what it does for your website? Read all about Yoast SEO 11.0!

What are answer boxes?

A Google answer box (or featured snippet) is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. Since this answer box is situated above the regular organic search results, everybody is bound to notice this. So, you can imagine the effect that might have. Having your content as an answer box not only brings in a lot of traffic, but it also proves your authority on the subject – Google picked you, right?

Answer boxes often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image. The image does not necessarily have to come from the article itself. Google seems to pick it, sometimes even from the site of a competitor, although that doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Take the search result [improve mobile site] or [how to improve mobile site]; both yield answer boxes with eight tips to improve your mobile site. I wrote and structured that article with Google’s answer box in mind and it paid off. By structuring the information in an easy to understand way and by giving great suggestions, Google put two and two together and found this post to provide the best answer to the question above. You can do this too.

Featured snippets let you jump to the top of the charts

Now to understand the value of answer boxes, it’s important to see how they live within the search results page. The search results page consists of several parts, among others, the organic search results, ads, and one or more dynamic search blocks. Google is increasingly trying to keep as many clicks as they can to themselves or send them to ad partners. Ads and inline search results like answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph items, et cetera increasingly obfuscate organic search results. For certain searches and industries, that leaves a lot less room to shine with your organic results.

Take that Blade Runner 2049 example I mentioned in the intro. Check the screenshot below (click to enlarge), and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does prove my point. Luckily, we can try to get answer boxes to bring us an additional stream of traffic. Not to mention that answering questions is an excellent way to get your content ready for voice search.

Snippet Blade Runner 2049

How to write content for Google answer boxes

There are several ways to try and aim for answer boxes. In the list below, I’ve listed some things you need to keep in mind when writing for Google answer boxes:

  • Do your keyword research
  • Find out what people ask about your keywords/brand/product/service
  • Look at the ‘People also ask’ boxes for ideas
  • Use Answer the Public to find questions to answer
  • Check several current answers to see how it works
  • Find out where you could improve
  • Determine how to structure your content
  • Make your content super helpful and easy to understand
  • Keep your answers short and snappy, at a maximum of 50 words
  • Make the article easy for Google to digest, so use lists, subheadings, etc.
  • Mark up your article with structured data (although you don’t always need it)
  • Watch out that your content doesn’t become/feel unnatural
  • Not every search will yield an answer box (there are even regional variations)

To top it off, find a way to get people to click on the answer box. You don’t want people to read the answer box and move on. In the end, you want them on your site. Don’t give away all the answers immediately, but try to trigger people to come to your site so they can get the full picture.

Answer boxes and structured data

There’s a common misconception that you must always markup your articles with structured data if you want to get answer boxes. That’s not true. The article I mentioned above doesn’t have structured data attached to it, and it still got an answer box. In some cases, however, it is very helpful to add structured data to your content. Case in point: recipes.

If you have content like recipes, or any type of the content types listed by Google, adding the correct structured data will improve your chances of getting an answer box. It’s like telling Google what your page is about by shouting it in a megaphone. Now, Google instantly understands content that has been enhanced with structured data and will use it to show it in all kinds of cool search features. If you want to learn how to apply structured data to your site so you can be rewarded the highly valued rich snippets, you should try our Structured data training.

The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio

As always, Google and only Google will pick the answers it shows in its search results if it shows them at all. In the end, there’s no magic formula for answer boxes. Google says the science behind it is very much in flux. Even the way Google finds and presents answer boxes is continually changing. For instance, Google is almost certainly looking at engagement and CTR when determining which answer to award an answer box. But there are also instances where Google picks an answer from a site on the second page of the results, or even further down the list. In the end, it always boils down to the simple question: “Does my answer deliver?”

Yes, you can do it too!

Aiming for Google answer boxes can be good fun. It’s hard to predict whether it will work, but once you get one, it’s a blast. You can easily incorporate this when you are writing new content for answer boxes, but updating old posts is worth a shot too. If you have particular pieces of content, like recipes, for instance, structuring your content for answer boxes is almost a must. And while you’re at it, please add structured data for this type of content as it is very important as well. Now, get to it!

Read more: Rich results everywhere »

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The ultimate guide to content SEO

Content SEO is a key part of any SEO strategy. Without content, it’s impossible for your site to rank in search engines. It’s, therefore, crucial to write and structure quality content! This ultimate guide covers the most important areas of content SEO. Read on if you want to learn how to create content that ranks.

What is content SEO?

Content SEO refers to creating content that helps your web pages to rank high in the search engines. It includes everything to do with the writing and structuring of content on your website. There are three major elements you need to consider to produce content that will make your website rank well: keyword strategy, site structure and copywriting.

Content SEO is important because search engines, such as Google, read your website, so the words you use on your site determine whether or not your site will rank in their results pages. Of course, your website should be well-designed, with a great user interface, and all the technical stuff that makes your site rank in Google should also be covered. But without good quality content, your site does not stand a chance in the search engines.

1. Keyword research

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is basically the steps you take to create an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for. Every content SEO strategy should begin with keyword research, because you have to know what your audience is searching for if you want to generate traffic. Keyword research helps you to discover the terms you should be aiming to rank for.

Keyword research has four steps:

  • First, you write down the mission of your business;
  • Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for;
  • Look at search intent
  • Finally, you create landing pages for all these keywords.

If you do your keyword research right, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms for which you want the pages on your site to be found. This overview will serve as a guide for writing content on your website.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

Why is keyword research so important for SEO content?

Proper keyword research will make clear which search terms your audience uses. This is crucial. At Yoast, we regularly encounter clients who use particular words when talking about their products, while their customers use entirely different words. Optimizing SEO content for words that people do not use doesn’t make any sense. Doing proper keyword research makes sure that you are using the same words as your target audience and therefore makes the whole effort of optimizing your website worthwhile.

Some terms we use in keyword research

Keywords and keyphrases

We tend to use the word ‘keyword‘ all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it has to be just one word. ‘WordPress SEO’ is a keyword, as is ‘Google Analytics plugin.’ So you can have keywords containing multiple words!

Long tail keywords

The longer (and more specific) a search term is, the easier it will be to rank for that term. Keywords that are more specific (and usually longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are more specific and focus more on a niche.

How many keywords?

It is very hard to give an exact number of keywords you should focus on. And then again, it’s very simple: You just need to have a lot – as many as you can come up with. More than 1,000 keywords is probably too many though!

Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But you don’t have to create pages for all of these immediately. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can gradually add content. Think about what keywords you would like to rank for right away, and which ones aren’t immediately important. Determine what your priorities are and plan the creation of your content.

Head or tail?

Classifying your keywords is essential. Some keywords are very common and competitive (head), while others are long-tail. Decide which are your most critical, high-level keywords – the ones that generate sufficient traffic for your website and best fit your business. You will probably only have a few of these general keywords for your business, the rest of them will be more down the tail. In the next section, we will give more in-depth information on long tail keywords (and the importance of these keywords).

SEO content focusing on the most common keywords should be on the top level pages on your website (homepage and the pages one level beneath your homepage), whereas content focusing on long tail keywords should be more on the tail end of your site.

Keyword intent and search intent

As you’re doing keyword research, it really pays off to think about the search intent of users. Would they be looking for information when they enter your keyword as a search term? Or is their goal to buy something? Keyword intent is clear in keywords like [buy leather sofa], or [how to train your puppy]. But it’s not always that simple.

There are four types of intent:

  • Navigational intent: People want to visit a specific website, but rather than entering the URL, they’re entering a term into a search engine.
  • Informational intent: People are trying to find an answer to a particular question or information on a specific topic.
  • Commercial intent: People want to buy something in the near future and are doing research before making a purchase.
  • Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Search engines are always trying to answer to the exact needs people have, and they’re getting better and better at guessing people’s intent. So, put simply, if 95% of the people searching for ‘change car tire’ have informational intent, and you’re optimizing for transactional intent to sell tires, you’re probably not going to rank most of the time.

You can get a wealth of information from the results pages when you’re doing keyword research. If you want to find out what the intent is of people using your keywords, simply google those keywords and take a good look at the search results. Try to create your content so that it answers the specific need that you distill from the results for each keyword.

Keep reading: What is search intent? »

Tools you can use

There are multiple free tools available to help you with your keyword research. Check out our article about keyword research tools if you want to find out more about practical tools.

Adapting your keyword strategy

Your keyword strategy isn’t static. It should change and evolve alongside your company and your website. It should evolve and grow with you. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong.

You should be on top of the changes in your company and adapt your strategy simultaneously. If your online shop starts selling new products, extend your list with more keywords. If you’re aiming for new markets, it’s vital that your keywords are aimed at these new markets as well.

There are several keyword strategies to adopt. One of them is to start off trying to rank for long tail keywords and then aim at more general keywords afterwards, but you could also start by focusing on general ones then aim for more long tail keywords after. You can zoom in and pursue more niche activities, broaden your approach, adding more content on different things, or you can do both simultaneously.

2. Site structure

The second important aspect of content SEO is the structure of your site. First I will explain why site structure is critical, then I’ll show you what an ideal site structure looks like. I will also give tips on how to (quickly) improve your site structure without completely disrupting the core of your website.

Why is site structure important for content SEO?

There are two main reasons why site structure is an important ranking factor and therefore imparative for SEO content:

a. Good structure helps Google to ‘understand’ your site

The way your site is structured gives Google significant clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine understands what your site is about, and how easily it will find and index content relevant to your site’s purpose and intent. A good site structure will, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.

By creating such a structure, you can use existing content that has attracted links from others to help other pages rank as well. Your site’s structure will help spread some of that link juice to the other pages on your site. On a commercial site, that means that you can use quality content you’ve written to boost the search engine rankings of your sales pages too.

b. Good structure makes sure you are not competing with your own SEO content

On your website, you will probably have multiple articles about similar topics. At Yoast, for example, we write about SEO. If we wrote eight articles about SEO, Google wouldn’t know which of these is most important. If we didn’t clarify this with our site structure, we’d be competing with our own articles for Google’s top spot. So, solving problems like this using a sound internal linking structure will result in higher rankings overall.

The ideal structure of a site

Ideally, you should structure your site like a pyramid. On top of the pyramid is your homepage and on the homepage are links to some other pages (such as category pages). These pages, in turn, link to even more pages.

In an effective content SEO strategy, your keyword strategy and the way you structure your site work together. In a proper keyword strategy, you’ll have thought about common, competitive keywords as well as more long tail niche search terms. You should make a similar dichotomy in your site structure. Pages focusing on more common search terms should appear high in your pyramid, while pages optimized for more long tail keywords should appear in a lower part of your site structure. These long tail pages at the bottom of the pyramid must link correctly to the pages higher in the pyramid.

Read on: The ultimate guide to site structure »

Practical tips on improving your site structure

If you’re serious about content SEO, you’ll most likely already have a live website. So it may be a bit late to set up your site’s structure in an ideal pyramid-like way. Don’t despair – there are still plenty of things you can do to improve your site’s structure and your SEO content.

Decide upon cornerstone content

You should focus your efforts on cornerstone articles. These are the articles you’re most proud of, that fit the mission of your website best. This ultimate guide is, in fact, one of our cornerstones. You want to rank for these articles the most. If you haven’t decided which of your articles are the most important yet, start thinking about that now. Make these articles the best ones on your site. Give them extra TLC and update them regularly.

Keep on reading: What is cornerstone content »

Link from tail to head

Once you’ve decided upon your precious cornerstones, make sure you link from all your ‘tail’ articles to those cornerstones. That way, Google will know which articles to rank highest. Read all about this in our article about incorporating cornerstones into your site structure.

Use tags (but not too many)

Your site will also benefit from adding tags. Tags and taxonomies will give your site more structure – or at least, Google will understand it better. They group your articles about similar topics. Don’t overdo it, though. Some people have more tags than articles. Using too many tags will lead to a confusing, poorly-structured website.

Avoid duplicate content

The same SEO content can turn up at multiple places on your site. As a reader, you don’t mind: you still get the content you came for. But a search engine has to choose something to show in the search results, as it doesn’t want to show the same content twice.

Moreover, when other websites link to your product, chances are some of them link to the first URL, while others link to the second URL. But if these duplicates all link to the same URL, your chance of ranking top 10 for the relevant keyword would be much higher. Canonicalization is the solution to duplicate content. You can configure the canonical URL in the advanced tab of Yoast SEO.

Remove old SEO content

If the content on a page is outdated, remove it! However, you may have had some valuable links to that page. You want to make sure you still benefit from these links, even though the page doesn’t exist any longer, so you should redirect the URL.

Redirecting pages is not difficult if you have our Yoast SEO Premium plugin, which can help you to take care of redirects. Preferably, you redirect the old URL (301) to the page or product that replaced the old page or product, or a related page if there is no replacement. That could be the category page of the specific product, or, as a very last resort, your homepage. This way the (outdated) page won’t interfere with your site structure anymore.

Deal with orphaned content

The term ‘orphaned content’ refers to articles that don’t have any links from your other articles or posts. Because of that, these articles are hard to find, both by Google and by users of your site. Google will consider this type of content less important. So, if an article is important to you, make that clear to Google (and your visitors) by linking to that particular article from other (related) content. Read more about solving the problem of orphaned articles in our article about orphaned content.

Check out our article on how to improve your site structure in 4 simple steps for more tips and practical input.

3. Copywriting

The third and final aspect of a successful content SEO strategy is copywriting. You should write articles that are attractive to read, and that makes your audience want to stay on your website. At the same time, you want to make your SEO content attractive for Google. But some people go too far and optimize their content so overtly that they become terrible to read. At Yoast, we suggest optimizing your text for search without adversely affecting the originality of your idea or the readability of your text.

Read more: The ultimate guide to SEO copywriting »

Copywriting starts with an original idea

The first requirement for high-quality copywriting is to write original content. Your blog post or your article should be ‘fresh,’ new and original. It has to be different from all the other blog posts and articles that are already on the internet. It should be content that people will want to read.

If you did your keyword research well, you ended up with a long list of terms you want to be found for. This list can be a guide for you to choose from. A keyword is not yet a topic, though. You should make sure to come up with an original idea for your blog post – an idea in which the desired focus keyword has a prominent place.

Original SEO content doesn’t necessarily mean brand new content. Of course, if your story is completely new, that’ll automatically mean it’s original. However, giving your (professional) opinion on a particular topic also counts as original content. Your own personal angle to a story will make your content unique and original.

Think about your audience

If you want to write original content, you should think about your audience and who they are. Also, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to tell your audience?
  • What will be the main message of your article?
  • What is the purpose of your article?
  • What do you want your audience to do after they’ve read your article? (Do you want them to engage, to buy your stuff, to read more posts?)

Thinking about these questions will help you to come up with an original idea for your post or article.

Content design

Content design is a process that helps you produce content based on actual user needs. It doesn’t just help you figure out what your user wants, but it focuses more on what the user actually needs. Thinking about your content in this way will help your user to get that content when they need it, in the language and format they need it.

Content design isn’t just a technique to help you produce better content – it’s a new way of thinking about content. If you want to know more about content design, read our post on content design: a great way to make user-centered content.

Copywriting requires readable SEO content

A key requirement for writing high-quality content is to write content that’s easily readable. Readability is important both for your audience and for Google. After all, not only do people read your articles, but Google does too.

If your text is well structured and clearly written, readers will understand your message, but perhaps, more importantly, it will also help Google understand better too. If your main message is clearer to Google, your post is far more likely to rank well in the search engines.

Readability is about many factors, including text structure, sentence length and writing clear paragraphs. Read all about the importance of readability in this post. For more tips on readability, you can read our post on how to make an article more readable.

Content, context and search intent

As Google is getting smarter, it starts to understand content on sites better. It doesn’t just see if a keyword pops up a certain number of times on a page. It also takes into account the context of those keywords, like co-occurring terms and phrases, related words and synonyms. On top of that, as mentioned before, Google is able to understand queries of users better: it tries to determine what the search intent of the user is. Is he or she looking for a product or just information? Which pages fit that intent best?

All these developments mean that you should focus on more than just using your keyword often enough. It means you should also think about the words you use around it: do they make clear what topic you’re discussing? And, do you have the purpose in mind of the post or page you’re creating? Does it just provide information or are you trying to sell something, and does that align with what your users are actuall looking for? Yoast SEO Premium lets you optimize your SEO content with synonyms, making it even easier to add context to your articles.

Content should be optimized for search engines

The final requirement for writing high-quality content is to make sure the content is optimized for search engines. You want your SEO content to be easily found. Findability has to do with increasing the likelihood Google will pick up your content for the result pages. It’s important that you take this final step after you’ve written an original and readable post.

Yoast SEO helps you tweak your text just a little bit more. If you’ve written your article, focused on that original idea, and optimized the readability of your post, you should take a look at the SEO analysis in Yoast SEO. Red and orange bullets indicate which aspects of your findability need a little bit more attention. You don’t need a green bullet for every aspect though, as long as your overall score is good.

Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well. These tweaks can vastly improve your chances to be picked up by the search engines. Read more about optimizing your post in our article on how to use the content and SEO analysis.

Conclusion on Content SEO

Content SEO is such a huge part of SEO. It encompasses all the aspects of writing and structuring content on your website. Content SEO is essential. Google reads and scans your website text. Google’s algorithm decides the ranking of your site largely based on the content you publish. And we all know content is king. So, you need to write awesome SEO content, focus on the right keywords and structure your website in such a way Google understands it. It’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the long run.

Keep reading: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post The ultimate guide to content SEO appeared first on Yoast.

How to build a structured data-powered FAQ page using Yoast SEO

Many, many sites have an FAQ page. This is a page where a lot of frequently asked questions get the appropriate answer. It is often a single page filled to the brim with questions and answers. While it’s easy to add one, it’s good to keep in mind that not all sites need an FAQ. Most of the times all you need is good content targeted at the users’ needs. Here, I’ll discuss the use of FAQ pages and show you how to make one yourself with Yoast SEOs new structured data content blocks for the WordPress block editor. You won’t believe how easy it is.

For more information on our Schema structured data implementation, please read our Schema documentation.

What is an FAQ?

FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. It is a single page collecting a series of question and its answers on a specific subject, product or company. An FAQ is often seen as a tool to reduce the workload of the customer support team. It is also used to show that you are aware of the issues a customer might have and to provide an answer to that.

But first: Do you really, really, really need an FAQ?

Usually, if you need to answer a lot of questions from users in an FAQ, that means that your content is not providing these answers and that you should work on that. Or maybe it is your product or service itself that’s not clear enough? One of the main criticisms of FAQs is that they hardly ever answer the questions consumers really have. They are also lazy: instead of figuring out how to truly answer a question with formidable content — using content design, for instance –, people rather throw some random stuff on a page and call it an FAQ.

That’s not to say you should never use an FAQ. Numerous sites successfully apply them — even we use them sparingly. In some cases, they do provide value. Users understand how an FAQ works and are quick to find what they are looking for — if the makers of the page know what they are doing. So don’t make endless lists of loosely related ‘How can I…’ or ‘How to…’ questions, because people will struggle to filter out what they need.

It has to be a page that’s easy to digest and has to have real answers to real questions by users. You can find scores of these if you search for them: ask your support team for instance! Collect and analyze the issues that come up frequently to see if you’re not missing some pain points in your products or if your content is targeting the wrong questions.

So don’t hide answers to pressings questions away on an FAQ page if you want to answer these in-depth: make an article out of it. This is what SEO deals with: provide an answer that matches your content to the search intent.

Questions and answers spoken out loud?

Google is trying to match a question from a searcher to an answer from a source. If you mark up your questions and answers with FAQ structured data, you tell search engines that this little sentence is a question and that this paragraph is its answer. And all these questions and answers are related to the main topic of the page.

Paragraph-based content is all the rage. One of the reasons? The advent of voice search. Google is looking for easy to understand, block-based content that it can use to answer searchers questions right in the search engine — or by speaking it out loud. Using the Schema property speakable might even speed up this content discovery by determining which part of the content is fit for text-to-speech conversion.

How to build an FAQ page in WordPress via Yoast SEO content blocks

The best way to set up a findable, readable and understandable FAQ page on a WordPress site is by using the structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO. These blocks for the new block editor — formally known as Gutenberg –, make building an FAQ page a piece of cake.

All the generated structured data for the FAQ will be added to the graph Yoast SEO generates for every page. This makes it even easier for search engines to understand your content. Yoast SEO automatically adds the necessary structured data so search engines like Google can do cool stuff with it. But, if nothing else, it might even give you an edge over your competitor. So, let’s get to it!

  1. Open WordPress’ new block editor

    Make a page in WordPress, add a title and an introductory paragraph. Now add the FAQ structured data content block. You can find the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks inside the Add Block modal. Scroll all the way down to find them or type ‘FAQ’ in the search bar, which I’ve highlighted in the screenshot below.yoast seo structured data content blocks FAQ

  2. Add questions and answers

    After you’ve added the FAQ block, you can start to add questions and answers to it. Keep in mind that these questions live inside the FAQ block. It’s advisable to keep the content related to each other so you can keep the page clean and focused. So no throwing in random questions.yoast seo structured data content blocks faq add question

  3. Keep filling, check and publish

    After adding the first question and answering it well, keep adding the rest of your questions and answers until you’ve filled your FAQ page. In the screenshot below you see two questions filled in. I’ve highlighted two buttons, the Add Image button and the Add Question. These speak for themselves.

    Once you are done, you’ll have a well-structured FAQ page with valid structured data. Go to the front-end of your site and check if everything is in order. If not, make the necessary changes.

What does an FAQ rich result look like?

We have an FAQ page for our Yoast Diversity Fund and that page was awarded an FAQ rich result by Google after we added an FAQ structured data content block. So, wondering what an FAQ looks like in Google? Wonder no more:

An example FAQ rich result for a Yoast page

Keep in mind that an FAQ rich result like this might influence the CTR to that page. It might even lead to a decrease in traffic to your site since you are giving away answers instantly. It is a good idea, therefore, to use it only for information that you don’t mind giving away like this. Or you have to find a way to make people click to your site. Do experiment with it, of course, to see the effects. Maybe it works brilliantly for you, who knows?

What does this look like under the hood?

Run your new FAQ page through Structured Data Testing Tool to see what it looks like for Google. Yoast SEO automatically generates valid structured data for your FAQ page. Here’s a piece of the Yoast Diversity Fund page, showing one particular question and its answer:

The first question and answer from the structured data graph

It’s basically built up like this. The context surrounding the questions is an FAQPage Schema graph. Every question gets a Question type and an acceptedAnswer with an answer type. That sounds hard, but it’s not. All you have to do is fill in the Question and the Answer and you’re good to go!

This translates to the code below as generated automatically by the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks. Now, Google will immediately see that this piece of content contains a question with an accepted answer. It will also see how this FAQ fits in with the rest of the page and the entities within your site. If you’re lucky, this might eventually lead to a featured snippet or another type of rich result.

<script type='application/ld+json' class='yoast-schema-graph yoast-schema-graph--main'> {
    "@context":"https://schema.org",
    "@graph":[ {
        "@type": "Organization", "@id": "https://yoast.com/#organization", "name": "Yoast", "url": "https://yoast.com/", "sameAs": ["https://www.facebook.com/yoast", "https://www.instagram.com/yoast/", "https://www.linkedin.com/company/1414157/", "https://www.youtube.com/yoast", "https://www.pinterest.com/yoast/", "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoast", "https://twitter.com/yoast"]
    }
    ,
    {
        "@type":"WebSite",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/#website",
        "url":"https://yoast.com/",
        "name":"Yoast",
        "publisher": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/#organization"
        }
        ,
        "potentialAction": {
            "@type":"SearchAction",
            "target":"https://yoast.com/?s={search_term_string}",
            "query-input": "required name=search_term_string"
        }
    }
    ,
    {
        "@type": ["WebPage", "FAQPage"], "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#webpage", "url": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/", "inLanguage": "en-US", "name": "How to Apply for the Yoast Diversity Fund • Yoast", "isPartOf": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/#website"
        }
        ,
        "image": {
            "@type": "ImageObject", "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#primaryimage", "url": "https://yoast.com/app/uploads/2018/03/Yoast_diversity_fund_FI__1_-1.jpg", "width": 1200, "height": 628
        }
        ,
        "primaryImageOfPage": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#primaryimage"
        }
        ,
        "datePublished":"2019-05-03T11:12:29+00:00",
        "dateModified":"2019-06-07T09:51:36+00:00",
        "breadcrumb": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#breadcrumb"
        }
    }
    ,
    {
        "@type":"BreadcrumbList",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#breadcrumb",
        "itemListElement":[ {
            "@type":"ListItem",
            "position":1,
            "item": {
                "@type": "WebPage", "@id": "https://yoast.com/", "url": "https://yoast.com/", "name": "Home"
            }
        }
        ,
        {
            "@type":"ListItem",
            "position":2,
            "item": {
                "@type": "WebPage", "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/", "url": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/", "name": "Yoast Diversity Fund"
            }
        }
        ,
        {
            "@type":"ListItem",
            "position":3,
            "item": {
                "@type": "WebPage", "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/", "url": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/", "name": "How to Apply for the Yoast Diversity Fund"
            }
        }
        ]
    }
    ,
    [ {
        "@type":"ItemList",
        "mainEntityOfPage": {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#webpage"
        }
        ,
        "numberOfItems":5,
        "itemListElement":[ {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800785311"
        }
        ,
        {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800831879"
        }
        ,
        {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800847830"
        }
        ,
        {
            "@id": "https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800862202"
        }
        ]
    }
    ],
    {
        "@type":"Question",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800785311",
        "position":0,
        "url":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800785311",
        "name":"What type of costs are reimbursed?",
        "answerCount":1,
        "acceptedAnswer": {
            "@type": "Answer", "text": "Our goal is to reimburse those costs that would keep you from speaking at tech conferences. If you, for whatever reason, have costs, such as child-care or specialized transport, for example, we invite you to share those with us and we'll look at those on a per-case scenario. Examples of costs we're happy to reimburse are:\u2013 Travel and transportation, e.g. gas, car rental, taxis or flights.\u2013 Accommodation, hotel, AirBNB or similar. \u2013 Child-care costs.\u2013 Sign language interpreter.\u2013 Visa costs."
        }
    }
    ,
    {
        "@type":"Question",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800831879",
        "position":1,
        "url":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800831879",
        "name":"How many times can I apply for the Yoast Diversity Fund?",
        "answerCount":1,
        "acceptedAnswer": {
            "@type": "Answer", "text": "Our goal is to assist in increasing speaker diversity as much as possible. This means we'll focus on first-time applications mostly. However, there is no limit to the number of times you can apply."
        }
    }
    ,
    {
        "@type":"Question",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800847830",
        "position":2,
        "url":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800847830",
        "name":"Is the fund available to all?",
        "answerCount":1,
        "acceptedAnswer": {
            "@type": "Answer", "text": "Yes. With the exception of Yoast employees, former Yoast employees, and contractors."
        }
    }
    ,
    {
        "@type":"Question",
        "@id":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800862202",
        "position":3,
        "url":"https://yoast.com/yoast-diversity-fund/apply/#faq-question-1556800862202",
        "name":"When should I apply?",
        "answerCount":1,
        "acceptedAnswer": {
            "@type": "Answer", "text": "Applicants should apply at least one month before the event."
        }
    }
    ]
}

</script>

Structured data is so cool

Structured data is hot. It is one of the foundations on which the web is built today and its importance will only increase with time. In this post, I’ve shown you one of the newest Schema additions, and you’ll increasingly see this pop up in the search results.

For more information on our Schema structured data implementation, please read our Schema documentation.

The post How to build a structured data-powered FAQ page using Yoast SEO appeared first on Yoast.

Content design: a great way to make user-centered content

You might know about content marketing and SEO copywriting, but do you know about content design? This new process is aimed at making content production much more structured and user-centered. Content design prevents you from simply typing out 500 words about a particular keyword without really thinking that through. For this, the inimitable Sarah Richards coined the term content design. It’s a way of improving content and aligning it with user needs, while also cutting cruft.

What is content design?

Sarah Richards of Content Design London says this: “Content design is answering a user need in the best possible way for the user to consume it.” It helps your user to get that content when they need it, in the language and format they need it. Content design isn’t just a technique the help you produce better content — it’s a new way of thinking about content.

Content design is part writing, part UX and part accessibility. It helps you produce content based on real users needs. In this regard, content doesn’t have to be a piece of text — it can be anything. If your research and process tell you a video would be the best possible solution for a user need, then so be it. Content design helps you get out of that text-oriented mindset.

A content design mindset helps you produce content that adds value to the user. You shouldn’t add another new page to the billions of pages out there already because someone told you so. Think it through. Ask questions. Is this even necessary? What is the underlying problem that needs solving? Content design should give you a good sense of the problem, instead of going straight for the solution.

Wants and needs

Content design is very much a process of figuring out not just what a user wants, but what he or she needs. They might want to learn how to solve a specific problem, but they need guidance to do that. You even have to juggle the needs of your business as well. In some cases, your content shouldn’t just provide an answer to a seemingly simple question, because the underlying need is totally different. Don’t assume stuff — research. Data is your friend — so are people, ask them.

Writing stories

After doing extensive research — we’ll get to that in a minute —, you know what you have to solve. You know what language people use and which sentiments surround a topic. Plus, you know which channel people are using. Now it’s time to turn those questions into answers. Here are the main tools to help you produce user-centered content: user stories and job stories.

A user story looks like this:

  • As a [person in a specific role]
  • I want to [perform an action or find something out]
  • So that I [can achieve my goal of…]

Here’s an example:

  • As a content writer new to SEO
  • I want to find out which WordPress tool can improve my writing
  • So that I can attract more traffic from search engines

A job story looks like this:

  • When [there’s a particular situation]
  • I want to [perform an action or find something out]
  • So I [can achieve my goal of…]

An example:

  • When I change the URL of a post in WordPress
  • I want to create a redirect
  • So I can prevent users from ending up on a dead link

Your stories should include acceptance criteria as well. There should be a way to check whether the piece of content meets these criteria.

So for the story above the acceptance criterion is:

This story is done when I know how to create a redirect in WordPress

This should form the basis of how you design your content.

User stories are helpful when you have different audiences looking to consume your content. Job stories are for specific audiences with targeted actions. For most sites, job stories would probably work best. These research-based stories help you determine what your content should answer. Don’t go out and make a million stories for every need, but focus on the most important ones. Your research should tell you what the most pressing matters are.

Now you can start designing your content.

How does content design differ from SEO copywriting?

We all know a little bit about SEO copywriting, right? You do your keyword research, you look at search intent and check out search volumes. You’ll find opportunities to get your content noticed in the search engines. This’ll help you attract clicks that, eventually, lead to something. If done well, you’re writing great, natural and user-centered copy about your keywords and the surrounding concepts. Done wrong, you’re missing the point or spamming with keywords. Or worse, you’re adding one more article to the gigantic pile of crappy articles.

The main difference between SEO copywriting and content design is that one is focused answering any question a user might have by using the correct keywords in a post, while the other is more open-minded about what the end result should be.

Also, the content design process has much more hands-on tools to make sure that you are fully on target with your content. In both cases, good preparation is half the battle. Find your user, discover where they are, what channel they are using, what language they use and what they deem important.

But like I said, content design isn’t another way to produce the same old content — it’s another way of thinking about it. By following the process, you get new insights and a great deal of input from the different user stories. What’s more, you get feedback from actual people, because you include them earlier in the process.

The content design process

Content design isn’t hard, but it is forcing you to rethink the way you work. Sarah wanted it to be easy to get going and her book on content design is just that. I’d definitely recommend reading that if you have an hour or two to spare. It’ll give you all the insights you need to get started, with many practical examples. Her training is ace as well, we’ve been lucky to attend her workshop with part of the Yoast blog team.

Now, let’s go over the content design process. Don’t forget your sticky notes, people!

Research: the discovery phase

Start off with the most important part of the process: Discovery. The discovery phase is all about doing thorough research into the assignment you’ve been given or the problem you’re trying to solve, the users it targets and the way these two connect. It’s a journey into the minds of users to figure out their wants and needs. It’s also very much a journey of trying to uncover the underlying need of the assignment.

The discovery phase helps you to understand:

  • Who your audience is
  • What they want and need
  • What language they use
  • Which channel they use
  • What your organization thinks it wants
  • What your organization really needs
  • How and what to prioritize
  • What you should communicate when (and where)

But how do you get all these insights? Well, good-old research. Look through the data; use Google Trends, Google Analytics, and other SEO tools like ubersuggest.io or Answer the Public. Go out on the street and talk to your audience. Ask your support team to chime in. Have a research team on hand? Use it! Read what users are saying on forums and platforms like Reddit and Quora. Doing this in tandem with everyone involved in this process makes the outcome even better. But watch out — try to stay away from what you already know. Don’t take the easy way out to be done with the research part.

Find user needs and map the user journey

Discovering user needs is an important step in the content design process. Besides finding out who your users are, you have to find out how they behave. If you are looking to promote a solution to a problem, find out how they currently got around that problem. Discover why they are experiencing this problem and what else they run into. What are they frustrated about? What do they need to solve this and turn frustration into happiness?

Remember, always keep it real. Everything should be based on research, not made up to fit your goal.

What journey does the user take to get to your solution? (c) Rosenfeld Media

The user journey is the relationship of a user with a product or brand over time and across communication channels. This is often a visual timeline with so-called touch points where the user comes in contact with the product. The user journey gives a bird’s eye view of where communication with a user should take place. Every touch point on the user journey may need a piece of content to help users meet their needs.

Since content design originated at GOV.uk, they have a wealth of information in their Content Design and User Research sections.

Find communication channels

Where are your users? Are they desktop computer users with broadband internet or are they mobile internet users with a capped data plan? Are they heavy search engine users or do they get their information from social media? What type of sites do they visit? Are they on forums? Or maybe even offline? Who do they trust?

Determine language and sentiment

As in SEO, the language users use is of the utmost importance. You’re bound to lose a large part of traffic or don’t get traffic at all when you’re using words that don’t align with your target audience. Always find out if people search for SEO or Search Engine Optimization, for example.

Use Google Trends to find what language people use. You can also use any of the well-known tools to do keyword research as we describe in our Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research. Make sure that you know your subject inside out and that you know all about related concepts as well. Only then can you form a complete picture of what you’re dealing with.

But while you are mapping your topic, you shouldn’t forget one thing: sentiment. One of the things content design reminds you of is that language changes with people’s mood. People use different words when angry. Find out if your subject is talked about positively or negatively. If people have a concern about your product you need to address that in your content. Sentiments must shape your strategy.

Create content

When you’re done with the discovery phase and you know everything about your audience and their needs, you’re ready to start designing content. You’ll use your job stories or user stories as input to come up with the best way possible to meet those needs. Remember, content design frees you of the classic text-oriented chains. It lets you decide — based on all your research — what the best way to help those particular users.

In a lot of cases, you’ll end up writing a post, UX copy or a piece of explanatory content. Writing and structuring content is an important piece of content design. Everything is aimed at making it as easy as possible for a user to understand. If your research shows that your user is often in need of answers quickly — because of where or in which situation they need that answer —, you most likely don’t have to write a 1,000-word post with the answer buried deep within those words. Give it immediately. If needed, keep it short and snappy. Writing strategies like the inverted pyramid help you do that.

Use plain language

If you want your content to answer user needs it must be easy to understand and plain. Don’t use exotic words or phrases and leave out the jargon. Everyone needs to be able to get it immediately. Well, maybe you think eloquently written content fits your brand better? Or, you don’t want to come across childish so you think you must use difficult words. Think again. Plain language helps everyone. Sarah has a great quote:

“Generally, people want to understand — not admire your language skills”

Sarah Richards

By using plain language you are not dumbing down your content, but rather opening it up for everyone to enjoy. In addition, it makes your content accessible. Accessibility is a big issue, often misunderstood. The first thing people will talk about when they talk about accessibility is making things available for the disabled among us. It is, however, so much more than that. By combining user needs with powerful, easy to grasp content you can open up that information to everyone, regardless of skill, the device they’re on, the knowledge they have et cetera.

At Yoast, we know the power of good, easy to understand content. Not only people enjoy readable texts, but search engines as well. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve built a readability tool in Yoast SEO to help you with that.

Ask for feedback — critique the work

One of the most important steps in content design is the crit. Crit is short for content critique and it’s all about sharing what you made and getting feedback on it, preferably in person. People are often hesitant of asking for feedback, but it is a necessary step to make sure that your content is awesome and exactly what’s needed.

Not everyone is good at giving and receiving feedback, so there are rules for a successful crit:

  • Be respectful for the person and the work
  • Discuss the work, not the person who created it
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Don’t give people the need to defend a decision

Doing a crit might give you new insights that make the piece of content even better. Or, you might find something else that improves your work or someone else in the future. Who knows! Crits are very valuable — it’s a good way to remind you why you did what and to see if the outcome fits with the research.

Iterate — keep improving

Content is never done. Remember the requirements you determined for a piece of content? Check if these are met so you can say with some kind of certainty that a piece of content is a success. After publishing you can keep track of how content is doing and make adjustments as you see fit. Try to stay on top of things and update the content within the time you set for it. Have feedback from users or other stakeholders? Use it to make a piece of content better, easier to read or more enjoyable.

Content design techniques are a great help

Content design is a great process that helps you create content that people actually need or use. You can use it for all kinds of things, from ux writing to content marketing blog posts. Everywhere you need turn user needs into content, you can use content design. Even if you just pick up some of the techniques — like working with job stories — you’re bound to find it useful. Try it!

The post Content design: a great way to make user-centered content appeared first on Yoast.

Is there such a thing as too much high-quality content?

Some bloggers consistently write awesome content. Everything they create is of the highest quality. Does that mean that these bloggers never have to clean up their website? Well, we have some bad news… Even if your content is really great, you could still have too much of it. In this post, I’ll tell you why too much content (about the same topic) could be problematic for SEO. And, I’ll give some tips to solve those problems. Finally, I’ll talk you through the process of combining two articles.

Why does too much content lead to SEO problems?

If you are writing about a similar topic a lot, you’ll have a bigger chance to suffer from keyword cannibalization. If you focus your articles on the same topics and the same keywords, you’ll actually be competing with your own content. Google will show one or two results from the same domain in the search results. If you are a high authority domain, you might get away with three results.

Read more: What is keyword cannibalization? »

Solving the SEO problem of too much high-quality content

Don’t panic! There are a lot of sites that keep adding content and do wonderfully in SEO. Just think about news sites for example. You can solve a lot of the SEO problems with a very good and hierarchical site structure.

Google considers the articles that have the most internal links pointing towards them the most important content on your website. Figure out which articles are the most important and make sure to link to these. This sounds easy, but it is a lot of work, especially if your site is large. You should be adding hand-picked, relevant links that are useful for someone visiting your website. Automation will not give you quality results.

Keep reading: Rank with that cornerstone content! »

Combining content

Having too much high-quality content on your website does not mean that you have to throw half of it away. About a year ago, we started noticing that we were suffering from keyword cannibalization at Yoast. Since then, we have been combining a lot of articles. Combining articles is not that different from writing a new article. Good preparation is half of the work. Let me explain just how to do that:

Step 1: Which URL?

The first step in combining two (or more) articles is deciding upon the URL you want to keep. Which of the articles attracted the most traffic? I’d recommend keeping the URL of the article that was most successful in the search engines.

Step 2: Decide upon a new message

If you want to combine articles, you’ll probably have two (or maybe even more) stories. Two articles that have a slightly different purpose and a different message. What is going to be the message of the new post?

In order to come up with your message, you could try to phrase a question which your new text should resolve. We refer to such a question as the central question of a text. The new blog post will be the answer to your central question. It could be that your new article will have the same message as one of the articles you’re planning to combine. It could also be a new (broader) message. Make sure to take some time to think about it.

Step 3: Decide upon the structure of your text

Create a new structure. Which information should come in what order? You already have some nice paragraphs in your ‘old’ articles. In this step, just think about the order of the information you want to present. For more input on how to come up with a good text structure, read my post about setting up a clear text structure.

Step 4: Write some new paragraphs

You’ll probably need to write some new paragraphs. Your introduction and your conclusion will probably need some altering. Perhaps you need to write an extra paragraph to make sure that the new article has a logical structure

Step 5: Rewrite your old paragraphs

In this step, I paste all of the content in the right order in your backend. You’ve thought about the order in which you want to present the information in step 3. In step 4 you’ve written some new information. Now, you’ll have all of the content and you just need to do some rewriting. The paragraphs from the old articles probably need some alterations. They need to fit in the new format. Make sure that they are rewritten in such a way that they fit the new post.

Step 6: Delete and redirect

You can now delete all of the old posts (except for the new and combined article). Of course, redirect those posts to the awesome new one you just created.

Step 7: Republish that awesome content!

You have now created a new article. I would treat it as such and republish it on your website. The combined insights of those old articles are valuable for your readers. Don’t forget to share it on social media and in your newsletter either!

Conclusion on too much high-quality content

It is possible to have too much high-quality content on your website. If you have been blogging for some time, it is almost inevitable to have too many great articles. You’ll probably suffer from keyword cannibalization. That does not mean that you have to throw that content away! Work on your site structure, make sure that your internal linking structure is flawless. That is a lot of work but will pay off in your rankings. Also, combine articles that are about similar topics. Just create an awesome new combined article. Good luck with cleaning up that site!

Read on: The ultimate guide to content SEO »

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Should you keep old content?

Writing a blog post can be a challenge. It is hard work, but afterward, you’re probably proud of what you have created. No way you are ever going to throw those beautiful articles away, right? But what should you do with blog posts that are really, really old? Should you keep all of those?

In this blog post, I’ll explain why you cannot keep all of your old content. Also, I’ll explain what types of content you should keep on your site and which kinds of articles should be deleted.

Why you cannot keep all your content

Even if your content is really awesome, you need to do some cleaning. Otherwise, you’ll be hurting your own chances of ranking in Google. You see, there are only a limited number of places in Google’s search results pages. Google will only show 1 or 2 results from the same domain in the search results for any specific query. If you’re a high authority domain, you might get away with three results.

If you have written 3 articles focussing on the same – or very similar – keywords, you are competing with yourself for those limited spaces in the search results. You’ll be confusing Google. That’s why you cannot blog endlessly about the same content and leave it be. You need to do some content management.

Read more: What is keyword cannibalization? »

Update, delete or merge?

There are three things you can do with old content. You can keep it, you can delete it or you can merge it. Not sure what to do? It all depends upon your content.

1. Update valuable content

Is an article still very valuable? Does it get a lot of traffic from Google? Is the post still in line with your site and your company? Old content that is still very valuable should, of course, be kept on your website. Do make sure that this content is updated on a regular basis. Your most important articles should never contain any outdated information. Setting reminders for yourself to update those evergreens every now and then is a great way to make sure your content is always up to date. 

Keep reading: Keep your content fresh and up to date »

Solve it with site structure

Keeping content on your website does come with a price, especially if you write a lot about similar topics. Make sure you add some structure and hierarchy to your website. If one of your pages or posts is much more important than the other one, you should treat it as such. Place that important page higher in your hierarchy. Link from less important pages to your most important page. that way you’ll be telling Google which article you want to rank highest with and you can keep both articles.

Read on: How to set up a cornerstone content strategy? »

2. Delete (and redirect) outdated content

Is an article outdated? Does it contain invalid information? Does it contain information that’s no longer helpful? Every now and then you write about an upcoming event or you announce something new. After some time, these articles are pretty much useless. These types of articles should be deleted. Do make sure to redirect the article to something similar (or to the homepage if you cannot find an alternative).

By the way, did you know redirecting is incredibly easy with Yoast SEO Premium?

3. Merge content

Have you written multiple articles about the same topic? Are they pretty much the same? Are they ranking for the same topics? These types of articles should be merged. Make one really awesome article out of the two (or three) you have written. Then delete (but do not forget to redirect) the old articles. I would write the new merged article on the URL that attracted the most traffic from Google.

Keep on reading: Content maintenance for SEO: Research, merge & redirect »

Repost your updated content

Updating and merging your old blog posts is never a waste of time. But if you really want to reap the benefit of your refurbished content you can republish it on your blog, repost it on your social channels and mention it in your newsletter. This way you’ll make sure your content won’t be forgotten and you probably even attract new visitors to your site.

If you make minor changes to a recent article you can choose to just hit the Update button. In WordPress, the Last-Modified date will then change, but the Publish date will stay the same. When you’ve completely merged or rewritten content you can choose to also change the Publish date. By doing so, your post will pop up on top of your blog again. Share it on your other marketing channels too and it’ll surely get the attention it deserves!

If you do the latter, don’t forget to delete the old comments on the article! It might come across odd to publish an article with 5-years-old comments further down the page.

Conclusion: continue to clean up

Checking, updating, structuring and deleting old content should be part of a process. Just like you need to clean up your kitchen closet every now and then, you also need to clean up your old content. As your site grows, you need to clean out the content and maintain the structure. This really needs to be a core element in every SEO strategy.

Read more: Update or delete: Cleaning up old content on your site »

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“Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all green bullets can be addictive, but it isn’t necessarily the best way of creating great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about the green bullets on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to get a feel for how to approach the bullets feedback.

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

1. I have some red and orange bullets, so I will never rank!

Generally, the more green bullets, the more SEO fit your text is, as we’ve told you in other posts on this site. But not every bullet has to be green. The bullets indicate strengths and weaknesses in your text. They can help you easily identify some elements you could improve on. Don’t take them as gospel. They are tools, not commandments.

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished.

2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets’ feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway (or Shakespeare or any other great literary artist, for that matter) wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. It has also shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: Readability ranks! »

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