SEO can be really complicated! How do you start with improving the structure of a site? How do you write amazing and SEO-friendly articles? To help all of you with your SEO strategy, I’m writing a series of Ask Yoast case studies. In these case studies, I’ll take a look at a specific site (the owner knows about it of course :-)), and I’ll give some SEO advice. In this second case study: SEO of an online shop!

Ask Yoast Case studies

Want Marieke to look at the content of your site? Send an email to ask@yoast.com!

Improve the SEO of an online shop!

In this case study, the SEO of an online shop is the central topic. We were given the chance to take a look at the SEO of Knock Knock, independent makers of clever gifts, books, and whatever else they can think up.

The Knock Knock team didn’t have a specific question for us, so we just took a look at their website and give advice on how to improve the SEO

First impression of KnockKnock

I want to buy those notebooks! I want to have those pens! Great fill-out books! I love the products Knock Knock offers. It’s original, it’s fun and I really get some sort of brand-feeling if I browse through their website. Fantastic!

Technically, Knock Knock seems to be a solid site, which is great. Some general SEO quick wins would be: creating alt tags for images and adding meta descriptions to tag pages and on some category pages.

KnockKnock has a lot of potential to become really successful. Maybe they already are! I believe that with certain SEO improvements they could be generating even more traffic than they’re getting right now! 

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Content content content

My initial thoughts for improvements when I saw this site were: 

“This site screams for a blog! Knock Knock’s products are very original and one-of-a-kind. Writing blog posts about, for instance, how to use these products and why you would need them, won’t be hard at all! Blogging is a great way to promote your stuff and to show to your audience how to use your products. In case of this specific online shop, I’d post lots of photos too.

For SEO reasons, starting a blog is very important too. Knock Knock doesn’t show a lot of content on their site. It’s an online shop with quite some products and, therefore, product pages, but the copy on these pages is quite short. That’ll make it hard to rank high in Google. Blogging, or in other words, publishing fresh content on a regular basis, will definitely improve the SEO of this online shop.

I would advise Knock Knock to start with some solid keyword research. Maybe they’ve already done some research. Which words do they want to be found for? After that, they should start creating some real quality content. I’d love to read blog posts about the origin, benefits or appliance of their products. They do have nice product reviews written by their audience, perhaps these reviews could serve as a starting point for a blog post.

KnockKnock sells products that are quite witty. I’m sure their blog could be entertaining too. Apart from a great SEO strategy, an entertaining blog would also be a kickass marketing strategy!”

After showing the draft of this post to KnockKnock they got back to me telling that they already have a blog! So I had rework my advice a bit… I started with checking out their blog first, where they write about the origin and creators of the products, the use of the products and more fun stuff. Their blog post are very original and entertaining! They also post quite regularly, a couple of times a month.

So now, my main advice is: make your blog more visible on your site! I noticed that we can easily get from your blog to your shop, but the other way around is a lot harder (or perhaps impossible?). I’d suggest to just add the blog in the top navigation of your site. That way, visitors can easily read more about your products, creators and all the nice things you do, apart from creating awesome products!

Read more: ‘5 tips to find inspiration for your blog’ »

Site structure

In case you would be starting a blog from scratch that would be quite hard. On the other hand, if you’re starting a blog, you do have the chance to create an ideal structure for it. Think about the topics you’d like to blog about. These could be the same as the product categories of your online shop, but it also could be different categories. Write a few long, really awesome, articles on each of these categories. These articles will be your cornerstone pages. Make sure to write lots of blog posts about similar topics (but all slightly different and more niche/long tail). And link from all of these articles to your most important cornerstone article. If you start your blog from scratch, make sure to structure it in an excellent way! Read more about this in our ultimate guide to site structure.

Conclusion

If you have an online shop that’s focused on an awesome niche like Knock Knock, your SEO will benefit most from a solid content strategy. Writing lots of texts, articles, posts will have an effect on your rankings. Besides that, it’ll be a great way of marketing your stuff. Combine your blog with an awesome social media strategy and you’ll increase both your rankings and sales!

Keep reading: ‘10 tips for an awesome and SEO friendly blog post’ »

If you’ve been using the readability analysis of Yoast SEO, you’ve probably noticed our check on the use of transition words. You might have been wondering: What are transition words exactly? Why did we include that check in our analysis? Or, to what extent are those words important for SEO? Here, I’ll explain everything about the relationship between transition words and SEO.

What are transition words?

Transition words are words like ‘most importantly’, ‘because’, ‘therefore’, or ‘besides that’. Using transition words well makes your text much more readable, as these words give direction to your readers. Using them is like pouring cement between your sentences: the relation between two sentences becomes apparent by the use of transition words. They send a signal to your readers that something is coming up, and prepare them for the next sentence.

If you’re summarizing a discourse, you probably use words like first, second, third, etc. Your readers will understand you’re summing up things if you use these words. If you want to compare certain matters, you could use words like same, less, rather, while or either. And if you want to conclude your story, you might use words as hence, consequently or therefore.

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Tabel 1: Examples of transition words

Relation Example of transition words
Enumeration first of all, also, another, furthermore, finally
Cause because, so, due to, for the reason that
Comparison/contrast similarly, likewise, rather, while, in contrast
Conclusion as a result, hence, consequently, therefore
Fuzzy signals seems like, maybe, probably, almost
Emphasis above all, most noteworthy, certainly, even more

Using transition words probably is something you’ll do automatically. Everybody uses them. You just need these words to tell your story. However, we noticed that lots of people use too little transition words in their copy. That’ll make a text hard to read, especially if your audience is reading from a screen, which is hard anyway. That’s why we inserted the transition words check into our readability analysis.

Importance of transition words for SEO

So what’s the connection between transition words and SEO? Using more transition words in your copy won’t make your article reach a higher position in the search engines directly. It isn’t that simple. So, sorry about that. That being said, transition words do contribute to SEO in the long run, because they improve the readability and the structure of a text.

Transition words are of great significance for the readability of your text. If you use sufficient transition words, your text will become easier to read. And readability affects your SEO! Read all about that in our post about ranking and readability.

Transition words play a crucial role in structuring your text. This leads to better understanding of your text by your readers. Well-structured text helps to attract readers to your blog and contributes to SEO! Read more about that in our post about ranking and text structure.

Conclusion

You should write original articles: content that people actually like to read! And, on top of that, write readable articles! Always make sure that your articles are nice and easy to read. That’s why transition words are important: to make sure that your articles are a great read. When you’ve managed to do that, start optimizing your post to make it findable as well, without making any concessions to either the originality of your content, or the readability of your post. Good luck!

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

Cornerstone content pieces are those articles on your website you’re most proud of. They reflect your business, communicate your mission and are extremely well written. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually explainers; these articles combine insights from different blog posts.

Here, I’ll explain all about cornerstone content. I’ll tell you what cornerstone content is, why it’s important for SEO, how to write this type of content and how you should link from your posts to your cornerstone articles.

Which articles are my cornerstones?

Choose your cornerstones carefully. Think of four or five pages you would like someone to read if they first visit your website. These articles should be the cornerstones of your site. Which articles are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? You should write cornerstone articles about the keywords you definitely want to rank for.

As of now, Yoast SEO will ask you to indicate whether or not an article is a cornerstone article. By marking articles as cornerstone, Yoast SEO can help you build a solid internal linking structure. Our link suggestion tool will give priority to the articles that you mark as cornerstone content.

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If your website is enormous, you’ll have more cornerstones than if your website is small. You’ll probably write about more than one topic, so make sure to choose a cornerstone article in each category.

Why are cornerstone articles important for SEO?

Cornerstone content plays a significant role in any SEO strategy. It can be rather hard to rank for search terms that are very popular. A cornerstone approach could help you tackle those competitive search terms. If you write a lot of articles about similar blog posts, you need to tell Google which one is the most important. Otherwise, you’ll be competing with your content for a place in the search results. If you provide the proper internal linking structure between your posts, you can show Google which article is the most important.

Linking structure surrounding cornerstones

Cornerstone articles should appear very high in your site’s pyramid. Ideally, one would be able to click from your homepage to your cornerstone articles instantly. You should link all your other posts about similar topics to that particular article. Subsequently, you will write tons of new blog posts focussing on new angles of the topic of your cornerstone article. From every single one of those blog posts, you’ll link to your original cornerstone article. Such an internal linking structure will increase the chance of your cornerstone content article ranking in Google.

For instance, I write a lot of different posts about SEO copywriting. All these posts focus on a different aspect of SEO copywriting. One of my articles is my cornerstone article, in this case, the Ultimate Guide to SEO Copywriting. I will make sure to link from all of my posts about SEO copywriting to that one important cornerstone article.

Internal linking in Yoast SEO

In Yoast SEO Premium, we offer internal linking functionality. We analyze the text you are writing and use the prominent words in that text to determine which articles are of a similar topic. These are the articles you should be linking to. Cornerstone articles are treated differently in our calculation of internal linking suggestions. They are more important and will receive a higher value. To give these articles some visible weight as well, we place the cornerstone articles above the list of the internal linking suggestions. That’ll make it much easier for you to link to your critical articles.

Type of content of cornerstone pages

Cornerstone content should always be content pages. It could be a blog post, but you could also make a page out of it. The content should be updated very regularly. Cornerstone articles should be explainers, so these should definitely be informative articles. In your cornerstone article, you should aim to rank for the most competing keywords.

Cornerstone articles are usually rather long. Everything that’s important about a certain topic should be covered in your cornerstone article. That’ll ask quite a bit of your writing skills. Lengthy articles are usually hard to read, especially from a screen. Make sure to use sufficient headings. An index at the beginning of a long cornerstone article is also a great idea.

5 steps towards a pragmatic cornerstone approach

Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research. After that, you can produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But what if you do not have that much time? And what if you’ve already written tons of articles? Follow these five steps to make killer cornerstone content.

Step 1: Think about your keywords

You have to determine the essential keywords you want to rank for. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the ‘head’ or most competitive keywords. Be sure to carry out keyword research.

Step 2: Choose the best post

Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords surrounding the most important keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!

Step 3: Rewrite it

Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. Expand it and make sure it’s totally up to date. You should rewrite and expand that article regularly.

Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants

The other blog posts about similar topics as your cornerstone article should be optimized on long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re attacking in your cornerstone article.

Step 5: Linking from those tails to your head

You have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important one on your site. Don’t forget to link from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!

Yoast’s plans for cornerstone content

Site structure is important for SEO. Having a solid site structure means both search engines and visitors can effortlessly navigate your site to find what they want. To help you with this, we are currently working on many more features in Yoast SEO that’ll improve the structure of your website.

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the complete guide’ »

To write appealing text for your audience, you need to know them. Who are those people that read your stories? Who are the people that search for the terms you want to be found for? Where do they come from? How old are they? What are they interested in? And how will you be able to reach those people again? In this post I’ll help you with analyzing your audience, as this is essential for SEO.

Why should I analyze my audience?

If you don’t know much about your audience, it can be quite hard to write texts for them. Should you write texts that are difficult or very easy to read? Which topics will interest them the most? Which search terms do they use? What blogpost will make them come back to your site? These questions are especially important if you want your audience to become regular visitors of your website or if you want them to buy something in your online shop. If you know a lot about your audience, it will be much easier to adapt your texts to your audience. As a result, you’ll become more successful in selling your stuff and gaining those return visitors. 

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How do I analyze my audience?

There are several ways of analyzing your audience. We’ve listed the ones we like to use below. To really get to know the people who come to your website, we’d advise to use all these different ways of analyzing.

1. Google Analytics

The best way to start analyzing your audience is by using Google Analytics. Google Analytics will tell you at what time a day your audience is on your site; where they’re from (at least from which country); which pages they like most and whether they use a desktop or a mobile device. That’s all valuable and usable information.

Closely monitor which pages and blog post generate much traffic and investigate possible patterns. Perhaps posts about a certain topic generate a lot of traffic, while posts about other topics don’t get many visitors. Use that information when choosing the topic of your next blog post.

2. Facebook Insights

Google Analytics can tell you a lot about the visitors on your website, but if you want to know more about the people you reach on Facebook you’ll need to use Facebook Insights. Check which posts get many views and which posts don’t get attention from your audience. Experiment with buying adds on Facebook too. Read all about Facebook Insights in Michiel’s post. Of course, every social media platform has its own analytics (we’ve also written about YouTube Analytics, Twitter Analytics and Pinterest Analytics). Monitor the analytics of the channels you use on a regular basis.

3. Surveys

A great way of getting to know your audience is to have them fill out an online questionnaire. In a survey, you can ask them anything you want.  You can, for instance, set up a survey that pops up when someone enters your site or you can send a survey invitation to your newsletter subscribers or to the buyers of your products. There are lots of packages that allow for online questionnaires. We have used Polldaddy.com in the past. They offer a free account, which will suffice for most small companies. What I really like about Polldaddy is the way they instantly present their results. They show frequencies and percentages in an easy to grasp format.

Remember that most people do not participate in online surveys. Still, if your audience is large, you’ll easily get a decent amount of people to fill out your questionnaire. To get more participants you can always try to win them over by raffling a nice incentive among the respondents.

Please note that it’s always a certain group of people that’ll be willing to fill out a survey. That group is highly selective and not representative for your entire audience.

4. Talking to your audience

Just having a conversation with a part of your audience also remains a great way to find out more about them. In an online questionnaire, you can ask a lot of people about your product, but their answers will probably remain shallow. If you’re able to really talk to some of the people from your audience in person, that could help you to get a better idea about who your audience are. Ask them what they like best about your website, your products, or your blog posts. Ask them why they come back to your website. Invite them to talk about their experience and don’t be scared of some criticism.

If I’m at a WordCamp or a congres somewhere and I encounter people using our Yoast SEO plugin, I always like to ask them what they appreciate most about our product. It helps me to understand our users. And, by understanding our users, we’re better able to anticipate upon their needs. If we know which features in Yoast SEO they like best, we should optimize or expand those features for sure.

5. Comments

If you want to analyze your audience and find out what kind of people it consists of, you should analyze the comments on your blogpost. What are people saying about you or about your post in the comments below your articles? Which aspects of your blog post are they talking about in their comments? Which topics are so important to them, that they are willing to engage? Analyze comments on your website, and don’t forget to monitor comments on social media either!

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Conclusion: analyzing is hard

Analyzing your audience can be a tough nut to crack. Google Analytics and the analytic tools of the numerous social media platforms are useful, but don’t tell much about the intentions or desires of your audiences. Surveys are great, but as most people won’t fill out an online questionnaire, the data aren’t that valid and representative for your entire audience. Talking to your audience can bring useful insights, but you won’t be able to have a conversation with all of them either.

All the different ways of analyzing your audience do add value in their own way though. Using them all will give you a clear impression of your audience.

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

Content writing should be a key element of every SEO strategy. How do you make sure your blog posts have the highest chance to rank well in Google? What are the successive steps you’ll need to take? In this post, I’ll take you back to the very basics of SEO. How do you optimize a blog post?

Find that keyword

The very first step of every content SEO strategy should be keyword research. You should figure out for what search terms you want to be found. Figuring out the right keyword can be quite daunting though. You really have to get into the heads of your audience.

Read more: ‘Why every content SEO strategy should start with keyword research’ »

A word is not a topic, though. Besides a keyword (or keyphrase), you’ll need an angle, a specific story around that keyword. Read our tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog if you would like to know more about that.

Yoast is most famous for the Yoast SEO plugin, of course. Our plugin will really help you in the optimizing process. The first step is to fill out the keyword you want your post to be found for (the focus keyword). After that, the plugin will give you feedback on how to improve the SEO of your blog post. It will, for instance, check your post for these things:

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Use that keyword

If you want to rank high for a certain term, you should definitely use that term quite often in your text. That way, Google will know that your text is about that specific keyword. But don’t overdo it. Google doesn’t like over-optimized text at all. A keyword density of 2 % ( in which one in fifty words is your keyword) is great. It’s best to create a text that’s rather lengthly, we recommend a text of at least 300 words. That way, you’ll be able to use your keyword quite a number of times.

Optimize your headings

Check if your focus keyword is in your headings. The title of your post is really important. You should definitely use your keyword there. Try to use your keyword in at least one of your subheadings as well.

How about that snippet?

The snippet is the thing Google shows in the search results. It’s the title of your post and a short description. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your snippet: it shows you a preview of the snippet and allows you to easily edit the content. This is very important, as it’s the first thing your audience will read. So this piece of text will have to convince them to go to your site.

Unfortunately, we’re never sure whether Google will show that specific snippet. However, creating a kick-ass snippet preview should be part of your SEO strategy. Of course, don’t forget to use that focus keyword again!

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

Don’t forget: write an awesome post!

Optimizing your post for the search engines is something you should definitely do. But more importantly, you should make sure you write an awesome post. The topic of your post should be original, the message of your text should be appealing to your audience. On top of that, your text should be pleasant and not too difficult to read. Without making concessions to the readability of your post, you should use the tips described to optimize your blog post and make it stand out a little bit more!

Read on: ‘10 steps to an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »

 

Two weeks ago Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that you should read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read nicely or sounds strange, it probably won’t rank either. Of course, a discussion followed. Some SEOs are reluctant to believe him, because in some cases keyword stuffing still seems to pay off. For relatively small languages (like Dutch) this appears to be true. At Yoast however, we really believe in the value of readable texts for SEO. In this post, I’ll explain the importance of writing readable content for SEO. Also, I’ll give some tips on how to write copy that is nice and easy to read.

Hummingbird and readability

After the Hummingbird update, Google became a lot better at recognizing synonyms. Keyword stuffing, in order to let Google know what your text is about, became useless. Keyword stuffing leads to text that is terrible to read. Webpages with this kind of content will (sooner or later) disappear from the search results. Sooner, if Google actively punishes sites that clutter their text with keywords. Later, if visitors get tired of reading bad copy and are less prone to come back or buy from those sites.

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UX and readability

Text that isn’t nice and easy to read will give your audience a bad user experience. Nobody likes to read something that’s boring or stuffed with keywords. All texts should be aimed and focused on your audience, giving them the best experience possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with unsatisfied visitors, that’ll bounce back to Google instantly, when they hit your site.

Voice search and readability

As voice search is becoming more and more important, readability of copy becomes more important as well. As people are searching for stuff by talking to their devices, these devices will search for information that they can give to their audience. Information that is a terrible read, will not be comprehended by an audience. Texts should be clear while read from paper, from a screen, from a mobile phone, but also if they are read to you by a device.

How to keep your text readable

Writing readable texts is hard. That’s why we worked so hard on our readability analysis. We’re still working on it, getting it translated in as many different languages as possible. It’s available for free in the Yoast SEO plugin. It helps you to write readable texts. It checks, for instance, if your sentences aren’t too long, if you don’t use passive voice too often, and if the length of your paragraphs is OK.

Before you start writing your text, think about the structure. What are you going to tell your audience and in what order? Is that a logic order of topics? Will your audience be able to follow your arguments, your examples, your message?

Read more: ‘Setting up a text structure’ »

Write short rather than lengthy sentences, as lengthy sentences a much harder to process. Try to avoid or to limit the amount of difficult words in a text. Try not to use complicated sentences and try to avoid the use of passive voice.

Keep reading: ‘5 SEO copywriting mistakes you should avoid’ »

Make sure to write in an appealing style. That can be really hard, as not everyone has a talent for creative writing. Make sure to mix it up a little! Try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Avoid starting sentences with the same word.

Read on: ‘5 tips to write a readable blog post’ »

Conclusion: read out loud!

Let’s be clear: your rankings will not immediately rise if you improve the readability of your texts. But, writing readable blog post is an essential part of every SEO strategy. If you want your readers to read your entire blog post, you should make sure your copy is easy to read. Posts that are nice and easy to read will definitely result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. So in the long run: readability ranks.

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

Writing is hard. Writing for the search engines is even harder. What about writing for the search engines and writing for sales simultaneously? Is that even doable? Because, in the end, we want to write copy that’ll rank in the search engines AND convince people to either buy your stuff, contact you, subscribe to your newsletter or to return to your website. In this post, I’ll share some of my recent discoveries in the field of sales copywriting. Also, I’ll show you that copywriting for sales and SEO is perfectly compatible (and not even that hard).

Sales copywriting

A few months ago, I followed a workshop by Amy Harrison. She is a sales copywriting specialist. At first, I was a little skeptic. I am a writer, I know about writing, what were the chances I would hear something new? I was totally blown away with Amy’s story, though.

Having a sales perspective on a text is very useful. I write a lot of blog posts, I like doing research, but I do not particularly enjoy writing marketing texts or sales copy. But of course, this is important too. That’s what actually pays the bills. But more importantly (at least for SEO addicts like me), a sales perspective is a very useful SEO strategy.

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What does your audience need?

Sales copy should be addressing the needs of the audience. What problem (that your audience encounters) does your product solve? In Yoast’s case: our audience will want more traffic to their site, higher rankings in Google, perhaps more sales. The problem our audience has is that they do not have as many visitors as they would like to have on their website. They’re not outranking their competition yet. These problems should be addressed directly in your sales copy. On Yoast.com, however, our sales copy was (and for a large part still is; we have so many high priority projects to focus on) largely product driven. In most of our copy we just used to list the features of our products.

We actually rewrote parts of the sales copy on Yoast.com, trying to really keep the audience and their problems in mind (and focus less on our products and what features are in it). Writing in a such a way – with room for the problems your audience encounters – actually is a very good SEO strategy. In your text, you’ll be focusing on the problems your audience has. Most likely, these problems will be what they’re searching for when they start their search for a solution. Thinking about the problems your product or service will solve, will result in good sales copy as well as in SEO-friendly copy.

Use words that appeal to your audience

In our ‘old’ product-focused sales copy, we tend to use the word ‘optimize’ very often. We like it. Optimizing could be so many things, though. Optimizing for the search engines, optimizing for readability, optimizing the UX of your website, optimizing the images on your site. Is the word optimizing really appealing to our audience? Is that the word they would use? Could we be more specific? What do we actually mean by optimizing? By optimizing for search engines, we actually mean ‘ranking in Google’, by ‘optimizing for readability’, we mean ‘writing a text that people would want to read.’ Perhaps we should use these phrases instead of optimizing?

Sometimes the words you’re using, aren’t the words that your audience is using to define their problems. If that’s the case, your words won’t be appealing to your audience, they’ll not recognize their problems in your sales copy. The text will be less convincing to your users, than if you write a text with words people can relate too. In addition to that, a text with words that are not used by your audience, won’t get much traffic. But, a text with words your audience actually uses, will definitely result in more traffic.

Get to know your audience

In order to write either sales copy or SEO-friendly copy, you should get to know your audience. You have to find out which words they’re using, how they describe their problems, how they begin their quest in Google. Talking to them in person or online could be a great way to start. If you’re using reviews or testimonials, these could be a really helpful source too. What words do your most satisfied customers use to describe their experience with your product, service or website? What things, elements or features of your product did they like the most? These words, these things, should definitely be included in your copy.

Conclusion

If you want to know more about writing awesome sales copy, you should definitely check out Amy’s website. I’m a huge fan of hers, even though she made a really weird choice for an SEO plugin. You should definitely check out her blog to learn more about sales copywriting!

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

If you want people to easily find your website, you should start by picking the right focus keywords (the keyword or keyphrase you’d like to rank for). Sometimes it can be hard to decide which keywords to optimize for. Do you have to focus on a head or a long tail keyword? Do you have to optimize your post or page for a focus keyword with or without a stop word? In this Ask Yoast we’ll explain in which case it would be better to use a stop word in a focus keyword.

Paul Lewis, a teacher at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia, emailed us asking:

“If I don’t use a stopword in my focus keyword I get a red bullet. “For instance, I use [Hotel Cimaja] instead of [Hotel in Cimaja]. Why is that so? Does it make a difference to Google?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Stop words in focus keyword

Read this transcript to learn more about using stop words in your focus keywords:

Yes, it makes a difference. It really depends on the keyword, though. But for travel related queries, where the competition is usually very high, you’ll see that there’s a different result in Google for the Hotel in Cimaja versus the Hotel Cimaja results, simply because pages are optimized differently.

So it really depends on how high the competition is, but you probably should optimize for the hotel plus location name, phrased just like that, because otherwise you won’t have a chance to rank whatsoever. Because in any hotel space you’re competing against huge sites anyway. You’re competing against the Expedias and the booking.coms of this world, so you have to optimize to your fullest extent to ever have a chance of ranking there.

What you could do though, if you’re writing about travel/hotels and you’re not ranking that well, is write about stuff related to that. Ask yourself: “What do I need to know when I’m traveling there? Or, what sort of keywords could I be searching for when I’m traveling there?” Look at all that stuff, create really unique and original content on those topics, instead of trying to rank for the same keyword that some of the most aggressively optimized sites in the world are trying to rank for.

Good luck!

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need help with SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Stop words in your focus keywords?’ »

Optimizing sites for search engines is something we do every day. Of course, we practice what we preach! But, now and then, we encounter websites that have gone a little bit overboard in their optimization strategies. What is the difference between SEO and over-optimization? And, how do you recognize an over-optimized website? In this post, I will answer these two questions!

What is over-optimization?

In my view, a website is over-optimized if the techniques aimed at ranking high in the search engines harmed the quality of the site. In such a case, visitors of the website will have a different, worse – experience. If texts become hard or annoying to read: you’re probably stuffing them with the keywords you want to be found on. If there are uncountable numbers of links on your website: you’re probably trying to over-optimize your anchor texts.

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Keyword stuffing: over-optimized text

Keyword stuffing is the most obvious way to over-optimize your website. Of course, using your keyword a number of times will help with your ranking. Google will understand what your post is about and rank it accordingly. Over-optimized text, however, is unreadable. If you put your keyword in every (other) sentence, your text will become terrible to read. Nobody wants to read a blog post about pink ballet shoes if every sentence contains the keyword [pink ballet shoes]. Even people who are genuinely interested in pink ballet shoes will get annoyed.

Consequences of over-optimization

Google’s Panda update aimed at all those sites with over-optimized content. If you are taking the optimization of your content a little bit too far, you are thus risking a Panda penalty. If Panda hits you, you’ll notice a sudden drop in your rankings. Over-optimizing your content could, therefore, backfire.

Over-optimizing always leads to a bad UX. Your text will not be easy and fun to read if you stuffed it with keywords. A text that’s full of links is not attractive either. Over-optimized texts will receive less social media attention. If your visitors get annoyed, they will be less inclined to buy something or to return to your website.

Our advice on an over-optimized website

An over-optimized website is a site that took SEO a step too far. Over-optimizing implies that the UX or readability of your website has suffered from your SEO strategy.

At Yoast, we practice holistic SEO. Google states that they want to give the user the best result. With our SEO-strategy, we always aim to the best result. Write the best content, make sure the UX of your site is flawless, cover all technical aspects and take care of the security of your site. Without making any concessions to the quality of your site, you can do numerous things to optimize your site for the search engines.

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

You did everything you were supposed to do. You wrote an awesome blog post, and the post actually ranks high in the search engines. Perhaps you even made it rank in a number one position. And you’re quite proud of your performance. Your deception is huge when your number 1 post doesn’t attract any traffic to your site. How’s that possible? What could be the cause for a post to rank high, but to lead to no or little traffic to your site?

Rankings and clicks

If a post or a page doesn’t attract traffic to your site, it means that people don’t click on your result in the search engines. Results that are shown highest in the search results usually get the most clicks. The result that ranks number 1 gets the most clicks, followed by numbers 2 and 3. Results lower in Google’s ranking get even fewer clicks. So, it’s counterintuitive to rank number 1 and get very little traffic. Let’s look at some causes!

1. Your search term is too specific

Ranking for [ballet shoes children very narrow feet] is much easier than ranking for [ballet shoes]. The more long tail a search term is, the easier it is to rank for that term. To set up an SEO strategy focusing on long tail keywords is a good idea in many cases. However, if you’re focusing on keywords (almost) nobody is searching for, you won’t attract much traffic to your site. You could very well rank number 1 with a post about ‘ballet shoes children very narrow feet’, but if nobody is using that search term, ranking number 1 is pretty much useless.

Before deciding upon which search term you’re going to optimize your post or page for, you should check out the search traffic for the term you’re considering. Google Trends is a very useful tool that’ll help you compare traffic for various keywords.

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2. Your snippet does not attract audience

Another reason why a high-ranking post does not attract traffic could be that the snippet in the search results is not appealing to your desired audience. If your snippet does not appeal to the audience, they won’t click on it. It could be that your audience is expecting something else. This could, for instance, be the case if you’re aiming to rank for new niches. Let explain this with an example:

You own a website selling arts and crafts. Your business and website are doing great. You’ve decided to expand your collection with children’s party supplies. You start blogging about it. Your angle and your site, however, is really different from all the other children’s party supply sites. This could be an advantage, but it also could be a disadvantage. If your result does not match people’s expectations, it could well lead to few clicks.

For this problem a solution exists. Check out your competition and analyze their snippets in the search results. What could you do to make your snippet meet the expectations of the audience?

3. Navigational search term

Sometimes people are searching for something really specific. This is what we call a navigational search term. People want to go to a specific site and type in the name of that site as a search query. If your website is not the site they’re looking for, people will not click on your snippet in the search result.

Up until a year ago, Yoast ranked high on the search term [Google Analytics]. We used to develop a Google Analytics plugin for WordPress (the plugin is now owned by MonsterInsights). Although we ranked second on the term [Google Analytics], we hardly got any traffic with this position. People searching for [Google Analytics] were actually navigating to the website of Google Analytics and not looking for Yoast at all.

Post ranks, no traffic?

Ranking high in Google usually leads to more traffic to your website. In some cases, however, a high position in Google does not lead to more traffic. In this post, I discussed three possible causes for such a scenario: 1. It could be that your search term is too specific and hardly anyone is looking for it; 2. Your snippet isn’t appealing enough to click on; 3. People use this specific search term to get to a site that isn’t yours. Find out what the issue is in your situation and adapt your SEO strategy to it!

Read more: ‘My bullets are green, but my post doesn’t rank’ »