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 Gutenberg. You won’t believe how easy it is.

What is an FAQ?

FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. It is more often than not 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, people rather throw some random stuff on a page and call it an FAQ.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use an FAQ. Numerous sites successfully apply them — even we use them. 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 nowadays: 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 Question structured data, you tell search engines that this little sentence is a question and that this paragraph is its answer. 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 brand-spanking new 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 new structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO. These Gutenberg blocks make building an FAQ page a piece of cake. It even 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!

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Step 1: Open WordPress’ new Gutenberg 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.

Step 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.

Step 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. Go to the frontend of your site and check if everything is in order. If not, make the necessary changes.

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 should generate valid structured data for your FAQ page. Here’s a piece of a page I made, showing one particular question:
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! Let’s break it down:

  • context is Schema.org of course
  • The FAQ page content lives inside a graph
  • type: Question
  • name: The question as written by you
  • answerCount: The number of answers counted. In our case that’s only one, but this will change if you have a Quora type of site where people can send in their own answers
  • acceptedAnswer: The answer that will show in search
    • type: Answer
    • text: The written answer for the question in this block

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. If you’re lucky, this might eventually lead to a featured snippets or another type of cool rich result.

<script type="application/ld+json">
	{
		"@context": "http:\/\/schema.org",
		"@graph": [{
				"@type": "FAQPage",
				"name": "An FAQ: How to use Yoast structured data content blocks"
			},
			{
				"@type": "Question",
				"name": "What is SEO?",
				"answerCount": 1,
				"acceptedAnswer": {
					"@type": "Answer",
					"text": "SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It's the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google's - or another search engine's - search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results."
				}
			},
			{
				"@type": "Question",
				"name": "What is crawlability?",
				"answerCount": 1,
				"acceptedAnswer": {
					"@type": "Answer",
					"text": "Crawlability has to do with the possibilities Google has to crawl your website. Crawlers can be blocked from your site. There are a few ways to block a crawler from your website. If your website or a page on your website is blocked, you're saying to Google's crawler: 'do not come here'. Your site or the respective page won't turn up in the search results in most of these cases."
				}
			}
		]
	}
</script>

Structured data is so cool

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Structured data is where it’s at. 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 be seeing this pop up in the search results sometime soon.

Since this is only an introduction to FAQ Schema, there are loads more properties to find on Schema.org. While not everything is available in Yoast SEO structured data content blocks, there’s a chance we’ll add some of those soon. You can always build on the groundwork that Yoast SEO lays down for you.

Read more: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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Journalists have been using the inverted pyramid writing style for ages. Using it, you put your most important information upfront. Don’t hedge. Don’t bury your key point halfway down the third paragraph. Don’t hold back; tell the complete story in the first paragraph. Even online, this writing style holds up pretty well for some types of articles. It even comes in handy now that web content is increasingly used to answer every type of question a searcher might have. Find out how!

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What is the inverted pyramid?

Most readers don’t have the time or desire to carefully read an article, so journalists put the critical pieces of a story in the first paragraph to inform and draw in a reader. This paragraph is the meat and potatoes of a story, so to say. This way, every reader can read the first paragraph — also known as the lead — and get a complete notion of what the story is about. It gives away the traditional W’s instantly: who, what, when, where, why and, of course, how.

The introductory paragraph is followed by paragraphs that contain important details. After that, follows general information and whatever background the writers deem supportive of the narrative. This has several advantages:

  • It supports all readers, even those who skim
  • It improves comprehension, everything you need to understand the article is in that first paragraph
  • You need less time to get to the point
  • It gives writers a full paragraph to draw readers in
  • Done well, it encourages readers to scroll and read the rest of the article
  • It gives writers full control over the structure
  • It makes it easier to edit articles

An example

Here’s an example of such an intro. Marieke wrote an article called What is SEO? that answers exactly that question in an easy to understand way. She gives away the answer immediately, but also uses triggers to get people to read the rest of the article. Here’s the intro:

“SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google’s – or another search engine’s – search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results. In this post, I’ll answer the question “What is SEO?” and I’ll explain how we perform SEO at Yoast.”

The inverted pyramid is just one of many techniques you can use to present and structure content. You can use it to write powerful news articles, press releases, product pages, blog posts or explanatory articles, like we do.

This style of writing, however, is not suited for every piece of content. Maybe you write poetry, or long essays with a complete story arc or just a piece of complex fiction. Critics are quick to add that the inverted pyramid style cripples their creativity. But, even then, you can learn from the techniques of the inverted pyramid that helps you to draw a reader in and figure out a good way to structure a story. And, as we all know, a solid structure is key in getting people — and search engines — to understand your content. Marieke wrote a great article on setting up a clear text structure.

The power of paragraphs

Well-written paragraphs are incredibly powerful. These paragraphs can stand on their own. I always try to write in a modular way. I’m regularly moving paragraphs around if I think they fit better somewhere else in the article. It makes editing and changing the structure of a story so much easier.

Good writers give every paragraph a stand-out first sentence, these are known as core sentences. These sentences raise one question or concept per paragraph. Someone who scans the article by reading the first sentence of every paragraph will get the gist of it and can choose to read the rest of the paragraph or not. Of course, the rest of the paragraph is spent answering or supporting that question or concept.

It’s all blocks these days anyways

On the web, there is a movement towards block-based content. Google uses whole paragraphs from articles to answers questions in the search results with featured snippets or answer boxes. The voice search revolution is powered by paragraph-based content. Even our beloved WordPress CMS will move to a block-based new editor called Gutenberg. These blocks are self-contained pieces of content that search engines are going to enjoy gobbling up. We can even give these blocks the structured data needed to let search engines know exactly what content is in that block. Blocks are it — another reason you need to write better paragraphs.

Answering questions

Something else is going on: a lot of content out there is written specifically to answer questions based on user intent. Google is also showing much more questions and answers right away in the search results. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to structure your questions and answers in such a way that is easy to digest for both readers and search engines. This also supports the inverted pyramid theory. If you want to answer a specific question, do that right beneath that question. Don’t obfuscate it. Keep it upfront. You can answer supporting questions or give a more elaborate answer further down the text. If you have data supporting your answer, please present it.

How to write with the inverted pyramid in mind

The inverted pyramid forces you to think about your story: what is it, which parts are key to understanding everything? Even if you don’t follow the structure to the letter, focusing on the essential parts of your story and deleting the fluff is always a good thing. In his seminal work The Elements of Style, William Strunk famously wrote:

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”

In short, writing works like this:

  • Map it out: What are the most important points you want to make?
  • Filter: Which points are supportive, but not key?
  • Connect: How does everything fit together?
  • Structure: Use sub-headers to build an easy to understand structure for your article
  • Write: Start every paragraph with your core sentence and support/prove/disprove/etc these in the coming sentences
  • Revise: Are the paragraphs in the correct order? Maybe you should move some around to enhance readability or understanding?
  • Edit: I.e. killing your darlings. Do you edit your own work or can someone do it for you?
  • Publish: Add the article to WordPress and hit that Publish button

Need more writing tips? Marieke gives 10 tips for writing an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post.

Try it

Like I said, not every type of content will benefit from the inverted pyramid. But the inverted pyramid has sure made its mark over the past century or more. Even now, as we mostly write content for the web this type of thinking about a story or article makes us focus on the most important parts — and how we tell about those parts. It forces you to separate facts from fiction and fluff from real nuggets of content gold. Try it out and your next article might turn out to be the best yet.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

The post First things first: writing content with the inverted pyramid style appeared first on Yoast.

“I’ve decided I wanted to start a travel blog”. I received this text from a friend who was in Croatia and wanted to just inform me about this. What I heard: “Caroline, spring into action. Throw ALL your tips at her. Buy your favorite blog book and get it delivered to her through same day shipping. And ask her if her blog is live every day. And make sure she installs the right plugins and did she know how important page speed is?” I get carried away sometimes. Especially when people talk to me about blogging.

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Getting excited about blogging

I spoke to her again today and asked her how her blog was coming along. It’s been two weeks since she notified me of the idea and I thought I’d been fairly good about it. Turned out she’s still at the same spot as she was two weeks ago. The only progress she’s made, is that she made a list of some ideas, that she decided she wanted to have some blog posts in advance and she’s done research.

If she continues like that, she hasn’t even gone live by the time I reach 100k visitors a month.

I’m known to get enthusiastic way too fast, jump into things without thinking through all the possibilities, and just go with it. Some call it impulsive. I call it excitement. The blogging world excites me, and when people show interest in it, I always think they are as eager as I am to jump in. I definitely do not understand why my friend is chilling at the beach right now instead of writing some articles, but that’s because I am not at that point where she is anymore.

Yes, I said ‘not anymore’. Because there was a time, I would tell my spouse that I’d just ‘work on my blog later’ and later never happened. There were moments when I dreamed of my goals but did nothing to achieve them. When I let fear get the best of me, and I used the ‘no time’ excuse to no end.

You have time – it’s your priorities that you need to set straight

It’s a bold statement, I know. But you do have time for your blog. You choose to use your time differently. I sincerely hope you do not take this the wrong way and will flood me with comments about how I don’t know how it is to live your life, that you have a 40 hour or maybe even 60 hour work week, that you have a household to run, you have a toddler, or maybe multiple toddlers that never sleep, a spouse that demands attention and you also have that gym membership that you already never use. Oh, and you want to prep healthy meals, too. So, who am I to tell you you do have time?

I’m the same as you. If I want to, I never have time for anything. Because I’m so busy worrying about life, busy with my family, with my job here at Yoast, with my commute and the horrible traffic jams, the laundry that just stacks up, et cetera. To conclude: I’m very busy being busy.

But I want to fit my blog in my schedule as well. Because it’s important to me. I love to write and I love the blogging atmosphere. This means that, just as any other task I have to do in life, this needs to become a priority too. So, if you’re struggling with the ‘I have no time’ excuse, read up to see my answers to all of your excuses for not making time for your blog.

Excuse 1: It’s easy for you to say, you just write opinions, I write fact stated articles

You need to do research for each and every article you write. Whether it’s focus keyword research, audience research or a full on article research, because you happen to write about a very specific location in the middle of the Atlantic ocean that no one has ever visited yet, except for that one person you hate very much. Odds are, that if you want to write about it, you already know something. Write that article as if you know everything already, type it all out, and revise and do your research afterwards. If I want to make sure I don’t publish half-finished articles, I put my notes between brackets and in capitals. That means that when an article is in draft and I need to revisit something, I’ll write: [CHECK IF SMALL DESERTED ISLAND IN ATLANTIC OCEAN EXISTS]. I’ll leave this note here, because I didn’t check.

Excuse 2: I literally do not have time

You might say that, but if you text me about how busy you are and you continue to text for over an hour, that’s one or two articles you could’ve written. Two articles? That many? Yes. That many. If you have an idea for the blog post, set a timer for 25 minutes, also known as the Pomodoro technique, remove all distractions, tell everyone in your household to shut up for 25 minutes, and just type away. And if you don’t have 25 minutes, then take 15 minutes. And if you don’t have 15 minutes, tell your spouse you’re going to do the laundry. With your laptop and your research books and claim the load was just really heavy.
Dear husband, if you read this, this is not what I do. I might check my blog statistics during this time, though.

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Excuse 3: But I’m not good enough

See article: Why you should quit your blog now and also read up on How to kill that inner critic.

Excuse 4: My family doesn’t understand me

They might not. And they may think it’s strange that you have the ambition to reach thousands of people. And you might tell them that it’s their fault that you couldn’t write that article you wanted to write. But the moment you start to take your blog more seriously, your family will do too. After dinner, my husband will ask me: “So, what’s your planning tonight? Blogging?” And that stems from the fact that I spent a lot of weeks working on my blog every night after our toddler went to bed. When I used my spare time for my blog, other people started to realize I was serious about it. And of course, you may need to discuss this with your family if this means you need time on, for example, Saturday mornings to work on your blog without being disturbed.

Remember: no one will take you seriously if you don’t take it seriously yourself first.

Any other excuse

If you have any other excuse other than the three I mentioned above, then you might want to reconsider if you even want to blog. I don’t want you to quit, absolutely not. I’ll be your cheerleader if you need one. But if your blog is giving you this much stress and you keep finding excuses not to do it, then maybe it’s time to look at why you started at first.

My friend just proofread this blog post, and she wanted me to let you know that she did way more than I claimed. She also found a theme for her website. The next time we meet, she’ll probably hurl the book I gave her at my head.

Read more: Blogging: The ultimate guide »

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You’ve probably come across the term duplicate content quite a lot, but what is it? Duplicate content is content that lives in several locations — i.e., URLs. Duplicate content can harm your rankings and many people say that copious amounts of it can even lead to a penalty by Google. That’s not true, though. There is no duplicate content penalty, but having loads of duplicate or copied content can get Google to influence your rankings negatively.

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What does duplicate content mean?

Duplicate content is all content that is available on multiple locations on or off your site. It often lives on a different URL and sometimes even on a different domain. Most duplicate content happens accidentally or is the result of a sub-par technical implementation. For instance, your site could be available on both www and non-www or HTTP and HTTPS — or both at the same time, the horror! Or maybe your CMS uses excessive dynamic URL parameters that confuse search engines. Even your AMP pages could count as duplicate content if not linked properly. Duplicate content is everywhere.

Google’s definition of duplicate content is as follows:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

That last part is important. If you scrape, copy and spin existing content — Google calls this copied content — with the intention of deceiving the search engine to get a higher ranking you will be on dangerous ground.

Google says this type of malicious intent might trigger an action:

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results”

Michiel has some great tips for discovering duplicate content on your site: DIY Duplicate content check. Google’s documentation is also a goldmine for working with duplicate content.

Duplicate content vs. copied content vs. thin content

The topic of duplicate content confuses a lot of people. For Google, most duplicate content has a technical origin, but it will also look at the content itself. “I have two URLs for the same article, which one should I choose?” While most regular people will probably think of pieces of similar content that appear elsewhere on a site. “I have used this piece of text in several other places, is that bad?” This is all duplicate content, but for determining rankings, search engines make a distinction between duplicate content, copied content and thin content.

Your duplicate content might classify as copied content if you use an existing text and rehash it quickly to reuse it on your site. It doesn’t matter if you give it a little spin or put in a few keywords, this behavior is not acceptable.  Throw in a couple of thin content pages — pages that have little to no quality content — and you’re in dangerous territory. Site quality is an issue and these tactics can bring serious harm to your site. Remember Panda?

Don’t block duplicate content on your site

Google is pretty apt at discovering and handling duplicate content. The search engine is smart enough to figure out what to do with most of the duplicate content it finds. If it finds multiple versions of a page it will fold these into the version it finds best — in most cases, this will be the original article/page. What it does need, though, is complete access to these URLs. If you block Googlebot in your robots.txt from crawling these URLs, it cannot figure these things out by itself and you will run the risk of Google treating these pages as separate instances. Here are a couple of things you should do:

  • Allow robots to crawl these URLs
  • Mark the content as duplicate by using rel=canonical (read more about this below)
  • Use Google’s URL Parameter Handling tool to determine how parameters should be handled
  • Use 301 redirects to send users and crawlers to the canonical URL

There’s more you can do to fight duplicate content on your site as Joost describes in his article on duplicate content: causes and solutions.

Use rel=canonical!

One of the essential tools in your duplicate content fighting toolkit is rel=”canonical” . You can use this piece of code to determine what the original URL is of a piece of content, something we call the canonical URL. We have an excellent ultimate guide to rel=”canonical” that shows you everything there is to know about it.

Focus on original, fresh and authoritative content

Another tool in your arsenal to fight duplicate, copied and unoriginal content are your writing skills. Google is focused on quality. It is always on the lookout for the best possible piece of content that fits the users intent best. Your goal should not be to make a quick buck but to leave a lasting impression. Watch out for thin content and make sure to make it original and of high quality.

The same goes for similar content on your site. We’ve talked about keyword cannibalization before and this is an extension of that. Folding several comparable posts into one can achieve much better results, both in terms of rankings as well as fighting duplicate content.

Here’s Google’s take on similar content:

“Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.”

Duplicate content is everywhere — know what to do about it

Ex-Googler Matt Cutts once famously said that 20% to 30% of the web consists of duplicate content. While I’m not sure these numbers are still accurate; duplicate content continues to pop up on every site. This doesn’t have to be bad news. Fix what you can and don’t try and turn duplicate content and its siblings copied content and thin content into a viable SEO strategy.

Read more: Content maintenance for SEO »

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I don’t know what the weather is like where you’re from, but we’re currently in the middle of a so-called heat wave. With temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 degrees Fahrenheit), more people are found in pools and at their summer destinations. You might have the feeling that no one is online to read your blog post. Or perhaps you’re rather hanging out at the pool yourself. So why would you spend your summer blogging? And should you even be spending your time typing away? I don’t have the definite answer for you, but there are various things you could do this summer to still maintain a growing blog!

Keep posting as if the entire country isn’t at the beach

This is my plan for the summer: just keep posting as if it’s winter when everyone’s inside with their laptop or tablet surfing around. If your biggest competitors are currently on a summer blogging break, that means it’s easier for you to get the public’s attention. And if they do not read it now, they might read it later. So you can focus on writing evergreen posts, so you will rank higher in Google.

I’ll give you a quick peek into my planning. I’ve looked at my Google Search Console and found that a blog post I’ve written in March is getting a lot of clicks through Google since the summer began. How come? The blog post is about precision waxing. The blog post focuses on waxing your eyebrows, and I guess a lot of people apparently need this for summer. What does this mean? I’m going to write more summer related blog posts.

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Optimize old posts

If you don’t want to spend your time writing blog posts, might not have the inspiration, or don’t want to market everything like crazy during the summer, you might want to spend time optimizing your older blog posts. Revisit them, look at your orphaned blog posts, or try to see what your competitors rank for. Create small challenges in your mind and decide what you want to focus on. Do you want to have a more solid website? Perhaps a structured navigation or a faster website? Or do you want your posts to rank on the first page of Google? Whatever your goal is, you can spend time on it now! You can do it much more in chunks than you can do blog writing.

Write in advance

You might not want to publish this summer, or perhaps you just want to publish less. This doesn’t mean you should stop writing altogether. Now might be the best time to work on your Halloween or Christmas DIYs, so you don’t feel the pressure of competing at the beginning of the season. Just don’t expect to find any Halloween decorations or pumpkins in store just yet. Meal prepping might be a task you can acquire, but the same goes for blog prepping. Nothing is better than to enjoy the nice weather knowing you’ve written (and planned) enough blogs in advance.

Take a break

I’m in a few blogger groups on Facebook and I’ve seen the discussion multiple times: a summer break. Bloggers ask each other whether they should take a break or post less and how they should address that. Because let’s face it: keeping up a blog is hard work. It might be your full-time job, or it might be a project that you take on next to your paid job. You might need a break from it. But preferably without losing all your followers and visitors.

If you want to take a (partial) break, you do want to keep your social media profiles active. You could schedule older posts, funny quotes or questions to your audience. But if you want to republish old content, how do you go about that? First, make sure that the content you share, is still relevant. Next, write a compelling text to go on social media and then schedule your post.

Should you write that it’s a repost? I would advise against it. Would you click on a link if the company or blogger wrote that it’s an old post? Probably not. Your best bet is to just post it. Unless you’re reposting blog posts you’ve just put up last week.

Communicate about you summer schedule?

Do you communicate about your summer schedule? I’ve seen bloggers ask this question as well. The real question is: ‘Do my followers want to know that I’m not posting as frequently as before?’ and to answer this, you have to know your audience. Perhaps your audience is very loyal and might think something terrible has happened to you if you’re offline for a bit and will start an online – or worse: an offline – search for you. Before you know it, there’ll be tweets claiming they found you with an adjoining picture of you running screaming after your toddler, or downing three ice creams and some french fries while you have the perfect image online of a healthy calm mom blogger. There goes your reputation.

I know my following doesn’t care if I blog daily, blog once a month, or blog twice a year. Why? Because I am nowhere big enough for them to even notice. The only people who might notice, are my close friends.

Know your audience

I’m just a small fish in a big pond. They’ll just go to another blogger. So I could write a lengthy blog post about how I’m going to enjoy my summer, because I deserve it, because I work hard, because yadda yadda ya, but the truth is: my audience doesn’t care. Neither does your audience, most likely. Your audience wants a laugh, perhaps a DIY, or information about a certain lipstick, or a Lego project. No one will look on Google for: ‘Will [blog name] be blogging less this summer?’ And if you, for any reason, do decide that your followers need to know that you won’t be blogging today, but will send out an update on Saturday instead and you need to write a blog post for it, then please set it to noindex. Unless you can explain the value of letting this get indexed by Google to me. I, for one, do not want anyone to Google my blog name and have the first result be one where I’m announcing a temporary hiatus.

Whatever your plan is, keep yourself – and your audience – in mind. I’m hoping to jump in on the fact that my biggest competitors will have a summer schedule, perhaps that’ll bring me more visitors. And if not, I might just write a post next year about my summer plans and then close off my blog for an entire month ;)

I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on this matter and if you’ve noticed a certain trend on blogs? Let me know how you combine the summer heat and blogging!

Read more: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

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By SEO for boring products, we mean SEO for products that are impossible to write exciting content for. Products that need a thousand words to describe all tiny details and small print, but are, in the end, just car insurances, paper clips or emergency exit signs. We have all had or have been that customer that just could not come up with the right, engaging content. Sometimes it’s just hard to write something that makes sense about a product, from your own perspective. In this article, we’ll explain how to approach SEO for boring products!

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First: get the basics right

Regardless of what product you’re selling, you always need to make sure that the basics of SEO for your site are right. That means that you’ll have to put some decent effort into:

  • keyword research
  • site structure
  • technical SEO

You’re in luck. At Yoast, we offer SEO courses for every one of those aspects. Or you could start out with our Basic SEO training and take it from there. And if you are using WordPress, install our Yoast SEO plugin and we’ll cover a lot of these basics for you. So far for commercial messages.

Are your products boring, to begin with?

Sometimes we feel like a product is boring, but in the end, it really isn’t.  We’re not selling insurance; we’re selling safety. You’re not selling paper clips; you’re cleaning up or organizing a messy office desk. A hammer isn’t used to drive in a nail; we’re using it to hang a painting.

If you look closely at the goal of your product for the end user, you might find that, even though your technical specs might be boring, there is still an engaging story to tell. SEO for boring products could be less about the product itself, focusing instead on the purpose of the product. That’s just the first step. Don’t be modest about your products, but look at them from your customer’s angle.

The product category, not the product

Even with the purpose of your product in mind, we understand that it’s incredibly hard to write engaging content for every one of your 1,500 types of screws. Yes, some may have other uses than others, but in the end, a screw is a screw. When it’s hard to optimize every single product page (I’m not saying it’s impossible), you could take a closer look at your category page instead. The same rules apply: look at your product category’s purpose, not at the actual products. We’re knitting a scarf, not selling threads of wool here.

Content ideas for boring content

Content used for SEO for boring products could be just informative. But it should also be content that people want to link to and share on social media. So, perhaps you could also think along the lines of more entertaining content, like a funny product video. We see a lot of these nowadays, right? Besides that, keep in mind that your product page isn’t the only place on your website that’s suitable to inform people about your product. You could have general pages about your company that are suitable for product promotion. And what about your blog? Your blog is an excellent spot to talk more in-depth about your products, like we do on our blog about our courses and plugins. A blog is obviously awesome to help with SEO for boring products.

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

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Here are some content ideas

The input for these pages can be found everywhere. And can be quite diverse.

  • Check social media for ideas – what is the competition doing? You are not the only one in your niche or industry, so you’ll probably get some good ideas on what to do and what not to do. See what the competition is doing, see if something similar fits your brand and create your own stories, blog posts, product pages based on that. Learn, but don’t imitate. Improve what your competitor is doing.
  • Talk to your users and get their stories, so people can relate to that. Recognition is always a trigger for me. If I can relate to a story about a product – not necessarily because the product appeals to me, but the person telling the story is someone that I can relate to- the product already becomes more appealing. Think similar social groups, age categories, etcetera. Talk to your users, tell their story about your product. What have they gained by it, what did it bring them? How did their lives become better after purchasing your product or reading your website?
  • Write an extensive how-to or manual – people are always looking for how-tos, right? If you are selling travel insurances, your visitor wants to know what they have to do when they actually need that insurance. Will it be hard to reach you and talk to you? I can imagine a lot of them want to know how to do that upfront. And why not go overboard: how to make an elephant out of a paper clip. I’m sure it can be done. But that’s a whole different angle.
  • Add videos. Perhaps even more than written howtos, people watch videos. When I’m looking for a product that will set me back a certain amount of money, usually certain gadgets and other stuff I think I really need, I watch unboxing videos, people using the product and preferably live reviews. I want to see other people sharing their stories, so feel free to create that video after talking to your users as mentioned before!
  • Create a user story and start storytelling. Storytelling is hot, you see it more and more. ‘Create’ users and share their experiences online. Social media is excellent for this, but your blog also provides a solid base for storytelling. We mentioned before in an article about testimonials that “stories have a positive influence on a customer’s perception of a brand, as well as the willingness to purchase. Stories can affect behavior, given that the story resonates with your visitor.” And you can craft that story to your own needs, as long as you keep it natural. Create a story people can relate to.
  • Top 10 tips and other awesome ideas with your product. I just wanted to mention this separately. The paper clip elephant could easily grow into a top 10 paper clip animals – great for social sharing. Emergency exit signs are boring, but I’m sure a few of those appear in leading roles in Hollywood blockbusters. On a more serious note, in the case of the insurances, the top 10 tips for travels to <insert country> and that travel checklist are great ideas that will attract visitors. Again, check the competition and learn from them.

SEO for boring products is about making a product less boring by focusing less on the product and more on the visitor/customer and the reason they need your product. These stories, combined with a solid SEO base and an engaging social media strategy will help you a lot.

Good luck optimizing

The last thing that I would like to mention, is that there is a real opportunity here. If you manage to make your SEO for boring products work, if you manage to create engaging content for products that you thought were dull and uninteresting, this is going to give you an edge on your competitors. You are not alone in finding it hard to come up with that content. All your competitors are probably struggling as well. Get creative! Good luck optimizing.

Read more: Product page SEO »

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As your site grows, you’ll have more and more posts. Some of these posts are going to be about a similar topic. Even if you’ve always categorized it well, your content might be competing with itself: you’re suffering from keyword cannibalization. At the same time, some of your articles might get out of date, and not be entirely correct anymore. To prevent all of this, you need to perform content maintenance.

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In a lot of cases, content maintenance is going to mean deleting and merging content. I’m going to run you through some of that maintenance work as we did it at Yoast, to show you how to do this. In particular, I’m going to show you my thinking around a cluster of keywords around keyword research.

Step 1: Audit your content

The first step in my process was finding all the content we had around keyword research. Now, most of that was simple: we have a keyword research tag, and most of the content was nicely tagged. This was also slightly shocking: we had quite a few posts about the topic.

A site:search in Google gave me the missing articles that Google considered to be about keyword research. I simply searched for site:yoast.com "keyword research" and Google gave me all the posts and pages on the site that mentioned the topic.

I had found a total of 18 articles that were either entirely devoted to keyword research or had large sections that mentioned it. Another 20 or so mentioned it in passing and linked to some of the other articles.

The reason I started auditing the content for this particular group of keywords simple: I wanted to improve our rankings around the cluster of keywords around keyword research. So I needed to analyze which of these pages were ranking, and which weren’t. This content maintenance turned out to be badly needed.

Step 2: Analyze the content performance

I went into Google Search Console (the new beta) and went to the Performance section. In that section I clicked the filter bar:

Search Console Performance section

I clicked Query and then typed “keyword research” into the box like this:

performance filter: keyword research queries

This makes Google Search Console match all queries that contain the words keyword and research. This gives you two very important pieces of data:

  1. A list of the keywords your site had been shown in the search results for and the clicks and click-through rate (CTR) for those keywords;
  2. A list of the pages that were receiving all that traffic and how much traffic each of those pages received.

I started by looking at the total number of clicks we had received for all those queries and then looked at the individual pages. Something was immediately clear: three pages were getting 99% of the traffic. But I knew we had 18 articles that covered this topic. Obviously, it was time to clean up. Of course, we didn’t want to throw away any posts that were getting traffic that was not included in this bucket of traffic. So I had to check each post individually.

I removed the Query filter and used another option that’s in there: the Page filter. This allows you to filter by a group of URLs or a specific URL. On larger sites you might be able to filter by groups of URLs, in this case, I looked at the data for each of those posts individually.

Step 3: Decision time

As I went through each post in this content maintenance process, I decided what we were going to do: keep it, or delete it. If I decided we should delete it (which I did for the majority of the posts), I decided to which post we should redirect it. The more basic posts I decided to redirected to our SEO for Beginners post: what is keyword research?.  The posts about keyword research tools were redirected to our article that helps you select (and understand the value of) a keyword research tool. Most of the other ones I decided to redirect to our ultimate guide to keyword research.

For each of those posts, I evaluated whether they had sections that we needed to merge into another article. Some of those posts had paragraphs or even entire sections that could just be merged into another post.

I found one post that, while it didn’t rank for keyword research, still needed to be kept: it talked about long tail keywords specifically. It had such a clear reach for those terms that deleting it would be a waste, so I decided to redirect the other articles about the topic to that specific article.

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Step 4: Take action

Now it was time to take action! I had a list of action items: content to add to specific articles after which each of the articles that piece of content came from could be deleted. Using Yoast SEO Premium, it’s easy to 301 redirect a post or page when you delete it, so that process was fairly painless.

With that, we’d taken care of the 18 specific articles about the topic, and retained only 4. We still had a list of ~20 articles that mentioned the topic and linked to one of the other articles. We went through all of them and made sure each linked to one or more of the 4 remaining articles in the appropriate section.

Content maintenance is hard work

If you’re thinking: “that’s a lot of work”. Yes, it is. And we don’t write about just keyword research, so this is a process we have to do for quite a few terms, multiple times a year. This is a very repeatable content maintenance strategy though:

  1. Audit, so you know which content you have;
  2. Analyze, so you know how the content performs;
  3. Decide which content to keep and what to throw away;
  4. Act.

Now “all” you have to do is go through that process at least once a year for every important cluster of keywords you want your site to rank for.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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Keyword cannibalization means that you have various blog posts or articles on your site that can rank for the same search query in Google. If you optimize posts or articles for similar search queries, they’re eating away each other’s chances to rank. Here, I’ll explain why keyword cannibalism is bad for your SEO, how you can recognize keyword cannibalization and how to solve it.

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

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What is keyword cannibalization?

If you optimize your articles for similar terms, you might suffer from keyword cannibalization: you’ll be devouring your own chances to rank in Google. 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 3.

Why is keyword cannibalism bad for SEO?

If you cannibalize your own keywords, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google. Let’s say you have two posts on the same topic. In that case, Google isn’t able to distinguish which article should rank highest for a certain query. As a result, they’ll probably both rank lower. Therefore our SEO analysis will give a red bullet whenever you optimize a post for a focus keyword you’ve used before.

But, keyword cannibalism can also occur if you optimize posts for focus keywords that are not exactly, but almost the same. For instance, I wrote two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. The first post is optimized for ‘does readability rank’, while the second post is optimized for the focus keyword ‘readability ranking factor’. The posts have a slightly different angle but are still very similar. For Google, it is hard to figure out which of the two article is most important. As a result, you could end up ranking low with both articles.

How to recognize keyword cannibalization?

Checking whether or not your site suffers from keyword cannibalism is rather easy. You should search your site for any specific keyword you suspect might have multiple results. In my case, I’ll google site:yoast.com readability ranks. The first two results are the articles I suspected to suffer from cannibalization.

Googling ‘site:domain.com “keyword” will give you an easy answer to the question whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism.

Solve keyword cannibalization with internal linking

You can help Google to figure out which article is most important, by setting up a decent internal linking structure.  You should link from posts that are less important, to posts that are the most important to you. That way, Google can figure out (by following links) which ones you want to pop up highest in the search engines.

Your internal linking structure could solve a part of your keyword cannibalism problems. You should think about which article is most important to you and link from the less important long tail articles, to your most important article. Read more about how to do this in my article about ranking with cornerstone content.

Solve keyword cannibalism by combining articles

In many cases, the best way to solve the keyword cannibalization problem is by combining articles. Find the articles that focus on similar search queries. If two articles are both attracting the same audience and are basically telling the same story, you should combine them. Rewrite the two post into one amazing, kickass article. That’ll really help with your ranking (Google loves lengthy and well-written content) and solve your keyword cannibalization problem. That’s exactly what I should do with my two posts about whether or not readability is a ranking factor. In the end, you’ll delete one of the two articles and adapt the other one. And don’t forget: don’t just press the delete button; always make sure to redirect the post you delete.

Keyword cannibalism will affect growing websites

If your site gets bigger, your chances increase to face keyword cannibalism on your own website. You’ll be writing about your favorite subjects and without even knowing it, you’ll write articles that end up rather similar. That’s what happened to me too. Once in a while, you should check the keywords you want to rank for the most. Make sure to check whether you’re suffering from keyword cannibalism. You’ll probably need to make some changes in your site structure or to rewrite some articles every now and then.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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My very first blog post here on Yoast.com was about why you should focus on SEO as a blogger. That post was one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written, as I was not focussing on SEO at all back then. I honestly didn’t want to spend time doing keyword research and research my audience. Now, almost four months later, I’m having fun with optimizing my blog posts and am creating a routine in this. And with success, my average position in Google is rising, along with the total impressions and total clicks. Today, I will share why and how I’m optimizing my blog posts. 

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SEO for bloggers

In the beginning of June I was at a conference for Dutch speaking bloggers. I gave a talk about SEO for bloggers and attended several talks myself. One of the talks I saw was by the owner of a big mom blog in the Netherlands. When the audience asked her how she managed to grow, she explained it was a combination of writing a lot, using Google Search Console and using Yoast SEO Premium.

“Anyone could do it,” she told the audience.

Challenge accepted.

The day after the conference, I started optimizing my blog posts. And with success. Where my average organic growth was around 10 percent per month from the start of this year, it was a whopping 86% in June compared to May. Turns out that the SEO tips we give at Yoast, even work for bloggers! Who knew?

Well, probably everyone knew. At least at Yoast. But I’m stubborn and always used the ‘that won’t work for me’ card. But really, as I wrote before, I didn’t want to focus on SEO. I’m a blogger. Who needs SEO?

How to rise in Google

The process of rising to the first page or even the top three result is a long one. You need the right tools and you need the right plan. You need patience and you need to be able to analyze your current data.

To rise in Google, I use two tools:
Google Search Console and Yoast SEO Premium.

Google Search Console is a great tool to see what keywords people use, what the click through rate to your website is and what position you are. You can compare your data as well. The newest data unfortunately is 3 days old, so you need patience with growing.

While you can do this all without our SEO plugin, I can’t live without our premium plugin anymore. I use the premium plugin to check my internal linking structure and use the link suggestions to make sure I am linking to all relevant posts on my website.

It’s hard to decide which blog posts to optimize. I found out my blog post about a lipstick review I did last year, still generates a lot of traffic. I’m not a beauty blogger, but apparently the post hit home. But posts I wanted to rank, weren’t ranking at all. I picked one of those blog posts and started to optimize it. You can do this by completely rereading the text, checking the bullets of our content analysis and adding relevant links to other blog posts – the internal linking tool helps with that, and to link from other relevant posts to this post. Orphaned content – content that’s not linked to – is horrible and it’s something you need to fix as soon as possible if you want to rank. 

A great site structure is a must for both visitors and Google. Learn how to set it up today in our Site structure training! »

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How to optimize without spending all day optimizing

I want to write. I want to blog. The last thing I want to do, is work on optimizing my blog posts for Google, Pinterest  or Facebook.

As I won’t go viral after I hit that publish button and I won’t get millions of hits after I shouted out that I blogged, I need to optimize the posts. I do this right after I finished a blog post. I reread it, go through all the bullets of the plugin and determine if I want to change its suggestions, or just ignore those stupid red and orange bullets that are out there to make my life miserable. The one thing I do check for every time, are internal links and a proper meta description. While writing meta descriptions are my nightmare, they are important in getting people to actually click that link.

Checklist

I’ve created my own checklist before I publish a post. While I sometimes go back to a blog post to create new links if I published new blogs, I make sure all my new posts at least check off the following:

  • There are at least 3 links to other blog posts I’ve written that are relevant to the topic. If there are no relevant links, I need to either create more content or perhaps remove the blog post altogether.
  • There is at least one relevant high quality image and it has the focus keyword in its alt description.
  • I’ve written a compelling meta description.
  • My readability is green. And if it’s not, the feedback it gave me was something I chose to deliberately ignore.
  • My SEO analysis is green. And if it’s not, the feedback it gave me was something I chose to deliberately ignore.
  • I’ve checked old blog posts to see if I can link to this new blog post.

Routine

It’s important to create your own routine in this. While in the beginning it might feel as if you’re messing around and it won’t have any use, if you continue to do the steps above, you will see improved results in Google and Google Search Console.

I’m curious how and if you are incorporating SEO tactics in your blogging. Please let me know, because I’m eager to learn from you too!

Read on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

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Keyword density is the number of times your focus keyword occurs on a web page, compared to the total text of that page. If you write a post for your blog, you should have thought about what keyword you want to rank that post for. In our Yoast SEO plugin, that keyword is what we call the focus keyword. If you have a text that is 100 words and 5 of those are your focus keyword, your keyword density is 5%. Is it that black and white? In a very strict world, that would indeed be the case. But Google is smarter than that. In this post, we’ll discuss a number of things you need to take into account when checking keyword density for your pages.

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Keyword density in Yoast SEO

In Yoast SEO free, we encourage you to aim for a keyword density of 2.5%. If 2.5% of your post is your desired focus keyword, your text will still be fairly natural to read. It won’t look over-optimized. The thing is, that in the end, you want to make sure your text is written for humans, not Google. If the keyword density of your text exceeds 5%, it will already start to look a lot like spam, or what we call keyword stuffing. It’ll start to look like it’s written for search engines more than your human visitors. Just don’t do that. This is why a keyword density of 2.5% is a nice indication of natural, yet optimized text as well.

Multiple keywords

Often, you’ll find yourself optimizing a text for more than one keyword. Especially long pages or articles can be used perfectly for multiple keywords. It’s usually hard to write two or three articles about similar keywords, so it makes sense to group these. Think along the lines of:

  • “SEO” and “search engine optimization”
  • “Review” and “Testimonial”

But also words that are a tad bit more unrelated. You might find yourself writing about a “forest” and want to include “trees” as well, for instance. The plural of a word is also something you could add as a focus keyword for your page.

Did you know that adding multiple keywords is a breeze in Yoast SEO Premium? You can add up to 5 (!) focus keywords instead of the single keyword you are used to in our free plugin! Get Yoast SEO Premium here.

When talking about keyword density, SEO and search engine optimization obviously mean exactly the same. Therefore, you should take this into account when checking keyword density for your post. If the keyword density for SEO is already at 2.5%, it would be unwise to add another 2.5% for search engine optimization. You are probably wondering how to check if Google considers two words the same or not: that’s simple. Google one word, and see if the other one is bold as well:
Keyword density: bold in Google

In this example, it’s clear that Google treats “SEO” the same as “search engine optimization”.

Synonyms

We’re so excited to let you know that synonyms are coming to Yoast SEO Premium! In one of the upcoming releases, we’ll allow for synonyms to be used to accompany your focus keywords. So, that means that besides the actual focus keyword, we’ll also let you to insert a number of synonyms, and we will adjust the keyword density calculation accordingly.

Imagine you are writing about forests. You might also want to use the word ‘woods’ to refer to the same thing. You can set ‘forest’ as a keyword and ‘woods’ as a synonym. In addition, you can also use the synonym field to add the plural ‘forests’. To set multiple synonyms, just separate them with commas.

Note that this does differ from the multiple keywords option. That option allows you to optimize for totally different words, whereas we will take the synonyms into account for keyword density and other checks in our plugin. For instance, synonyms are also used when we calculate topic distribution (more on that below).

Keyword versus topic

The terms we use in our plugin to refer to these checks, will differ, depending on which version of Yoast SEO you use. We’ll use the terms ‘keyword density’ and ‘keyword distribution’, as long as you don’t have Yoast SEO Premium and the synonyms feature. As soon as you have that feature, we will no longer refer to the ‘keyword’, but to the ‘topic’, being the keyword and the synonyms, when checking density and distribution. That brings us to the next new feature in Yoast SEO Premium: topic distribution.

Topic distribution

We will also add topic distribution to Yoast SEO Premium in that release! This is actually something we’ve been planning to add for a while. We can tell you that your page has 2.5% keyword density, but if your 2,500 words article uses your focus keyword and synonyms 62 times in just the first two paragraphs, your text will still look strange, right? If your article is about ‘plugins’, you’ll want to use that word throughout the article, not just at the beginning or end. That is why topic distribution is so important.

Just to be clear: we’re talking about topic distribution when you have included synonyms because we calculate the distribution of keywords as well as synonyms. When you don’t have synonyms, we simply calculate the keyword distribution for your keyword or keyphrase.

Keyword density is the basis

You’ll understand by now that keyword density is the basis of how well your post or page is optimized for a certain focus keyword. Keyword density, in our plugin or in one of the many tools available on the internet, will tell you if you’re over-optimizing your text or just not optimizing it enough. If you want to take it a step further and get closer to how Google sees your copy, synonyms and topic distribution will definitely be something to take into account too. Now go optimize!

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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