Your meta descriptions need to be shorter. I know, just a few months ago, we told you that your meta descriptions could be longer. Now we’re saying that they should be shorter. I understand the confusion. But Google changed its mind. And whenever Google changes its mind about something, we need to adjust accordingly. It’s almost like if Google says jump; we reply with ‘how high?’. But, for better or worse, that’s the way this SEO game works. Here, I’ll explain what Google has changed concerning the meta descriptions and what the consequences will be.

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What has changed?

While Google showed snippets with long meta descriptions (around 320 characters) in the past few months, the snippets are now back to their old length (between 150 and 170 characters). A few weeks ago, we published the results of our research in which we experimented with long and short meta descriptions on Yoast.com. All of the long meta descriptions we added to articles on Yoast.com, that were visible in the search results pages earlier, are now all replaced by short ones.

Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that Google, in fact, has changed the meta descriptions.

However, he does not say how long the new meta descriptions will be. He says that the length will be shorter, but variable. Research of Moz shows that most meta descriptions are about the same length as they were before Google decided to increase the number of available characters.

What should you do?

Don’t panic. If you’ve made your meta descriptions longer than 155 characters, I’d advise to make them shorter though. At least for your most important articles. In most cases, Google will not show the long descriptions anymore and you don’t want Google to cut off your meta descriptions in the middle of a sentence. So you’d want to rewrite these meta descriptions, making them fit Google’s new rule. If you decide to rewrite them, always keep in mind that it’s best to start with the most important information first. That way, if the length changes again, you’re pretty sure that that part won’t be cut off.

What about Yoast SEO?

If you go to the snippet editor in the Yoast SEO plugin now, you’ll see the old meta description length. By ‘old’ we mean the ‘new’ one – about 320 characters – which is outdated already. So we’ll change the meta description length. Again. It will go back to what it was: about 155 characters. This change is scheduled for the 7.6 release which will roll out in two weeks. And then, hopefully, it’ll stay the same (at least for a while).

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I bet you’ve reread the title at least several times. Did I really just announce a blog post on why you should quit your blog? Yes. Yes, I did. Who am I to tell you to quit blogging? And before you tell me that I should be the one to quit my blog, let me tell you: no, I’m not. In this post, I will share five reasons why you should quit blogging.

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Reason number 1: You can’t write

You think that you are a terrible writer. No one wants to read your blogs, and if you look at the blog posts you wrote a few months ago, you cringe. You have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot write. So put yourself (and all your readers, they’ll thank you) out of their misery. Just quit.

Unless…

… you love to write. Unless it’s just your inner critic talking. In most cases, it’s just not true. And even if it’s true, how can you grow to be a great writer if you don’t try? We somehow have forgotten that to learn, we have to try. We have to fall and stand up again. No child ever just stopped trying to get up after it fell again and again. It just got back up to try again. The first baby steps couldn’t have been successful if the child thought it couldn’t do it after failing the first time. So grab your notebook or your laptop and get to it. Make mistakes. And then find a way to do it right and improve.

Reason number 2: You don’t have an audience

Who are you writing for if you don’t have any visitors? Honestly, what a waste of time. You could spend your time doing something useful, such as making money by getting a real job. Maybe you should do chores around the house, get the groceries or do some cleaning.

I hope you’re writing for yourself. I hope you’re writing to ease the writer inside of you. And I hope you write because you have a story to get out of there. Above all, I hope you realize that if you keep your writings to yourself, no one will ever read it. And if you don’t have an audience yet, you could try and work on your SEO. Whatever the reason is you do not have many visitors just yet, find out what it is and get that audience.

Even more important: cherish the small audience you might have right now. If it’s your spouse, your mother, your best friend or someone you don’t know: if they take the time to tell you they like it, you’ve got an audience. It starts with just one reader.

Reason 3: There are a lot of blogs already, yours is nothing new

My younger sister told me this when I started my blog about life as a mother. She said: ‘Aren’t there already a lot of blogs like yours out there? Why do you think you’re so special?’ She hadn’t even seen my blog yet, hadn’t even read my articles. And I doubt she even remembers she told me this because last week she told me: ‘Oh, I read this and that on your blog. That’s insane!’

I remember feeling insecure when she told me I wasn’t unique, but I continued to blog anyway. I told her she knew nothing. And no, I’m not the biggest blogger out there (if only), I’m not even mildly average. My blog isn’t even big enough to be considered for so-called ‘influencer programs.’ And although I have goals to become big, my goal to be authentic is bigger. So my blog is something new because it’s mine. Your blog is just as special and authentic.

Reason 4: It’s lonely

You’re just sitting there, behind your computer, writing stuff no one reads for a blog that makes no money. You must be so incredibly lonely.

I’ve met a lot of bloggers the past year. On blogger conferences, through Twitter, through Facebook groups, through Pinterest and blogs of bloggers I admire. If you feel alone as a blogger, find a local (WordPress) meetup, join Facebook groups, Twitter discussions or just send an email to a blogger you admire. Writing can be a lonely hobby, but it’s not necessary.

Reason 5: You’re giving away your information. For free

Are you out of your mind, or what? Are you just giving all your information away, for free? How will you make money? I mean, why would you give stuff away for free?

I don’t know why we do this either. It must be in our nature to help people.

And if you didn’t already know, bloggers can surely monetize their blog.

I love to write. I write a lot. Therefore I am a writer. I’m not making money with my blog. I’m losing money on advertising, hosting, a theme and premium plugins, but I don’t care for now. It’s my hobby. It’s almost volunteering, but on my terms.

Honestly, did you think I was serious about quitting blogging? I’ve started this series to encourage you to pick up blogging too. I’m encouraging friends to start blogs and we have written guides how to start or continue blogging. So, if anyone ever tells you again you should quit blogging, tell them: Nope. And throw this page in their face.

Read more: ‘Caroline’s Corner: Finding inspiration for your next blog post’ »

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A little over a month ago I started looking at my Pinterest profile more seriously in regards to my blog. I didn’t use Pinterest for my blog yet and never even thought of pinning my blog posts to Pinterest. I used the website to keep my wishlist up to date and had tons of hidden boards full of inspiration for future projects that I would probably never do.

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Facebook is my biggest source of traffic currently, but with Facebook’s announcement on the new algorithm, I want to rely less on Facebook. Or spread my traffic source at least. At the end of March, I received a newsletter from a blogger I follow. She claimed she receives over 15,000 visitors from Pinterest every month. She started blogging last year and hasn’t written a new blog post since January. Yet her blog is ever growing, and so is her bank account. 15k for a website that’s not regularly updated raised one main question with me: HOW?

We emailed for a while and she explained she started to treat Pinterest as a search engine instead of a social medium. People are not on Pinterest to see what their friends like, they are looking for a solution for a problem they have. The difference with Google? You have a personal feed when you open Pinterest. And it is visual.

Skepticism

I was skeptical. I don’t like promoting my website, due to my inner critic who thinks it’s necessary to tell me no one wants to read my blog posts and I should not be bothering them on Facebook or anywhere else. Also, I dislike scheduling my social media to promote my blog and I definitely do not like to make the graphics for my blog. I am a writer, but as a blogger you have to be all-round, unless you’re as lucky as me and you can blog for Yoast where there’s an entire team who will create graphics and do the promotion for you. Unfortunately, they won’t do promotion for my personal blog. I should’ve negotiated that at the beginning of my contract.

Still skeptical about Pinterest, I walked into Joost’s office last month and asked him what he knew about Pinterest. He explained to me that there are mom blogs, especially in the US, that get ten thousands of visitors through Pinterest. The statistics can get bizarre. He told me I was definitely in the right niche to grow through Pinterest and should give it a go.

That night I sat down and started creating graphics for my blog. Pinterest suggests vertical pins instead of the horizontal scaled images for Facebook.

What Pinterest did to my statistics

I would love to say that I woke up the next morning, opened Pinterest and saw that my pins went viral. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Your exposure will slowly climb and the more active you are on Pinterest, the faster you will get rewarded.

If you have a business account with Pinterest, you can look at your statistics. I saw that one of my pins had been shown over 400 times in just a few days. So I squealed and told everyone how amazing Pinterest was. I then showed my statistics to everyone who wanted to see, and even those who didn’t know they wanted to see.

But out of those 400 impressions on Pinterest, not one person had repinned my pin. And no one had clicked the link. Facebook advertising sounded a lot more appealing right now. And less work. And easier to understand.

It took me a week to understand and find the mix that started getting me visitors. I can now say that after one month, 10% of my traffic to my blog is Pinterest. 10% in just one month! My stats are surprising me each and every day and I actually love looking at Google Analytics and my Pinterest statistics. I’ve created a board for my blog and created boards that are close to my niche. I’ve repinned pins from others and pinned my own blog posts.

How you can start to grow

To start growing, the first important step is that your image should be appealing and of high quality. Pins with the message in bold letters across the image, work wonders. People want to know what your post is about in one glance. Writing compelling titles is already important for SEO, so dust up those skills and get them to use for Pinterest!

Another important factor of getting seen is collaborating with others in group boards. By pinning your content to group boards, your content will be seen by the others who contribute to the board.

But balance is key: don’t just pin from your own website. Repin as well. Don’t be afraid to repin a blog post from a competitor if it fits one of your boards. For example: one of my best performing boards is about self-care. I have only written two blog posts on this subject yet, but funny enough, these two blog posts generate the most traffic to my blog.

There’s no easy fix to gain visitors fast. It’s much like Google, Facebook or your other sources of traffic: you need to solve a problem for you visitor by creating content your visitors are looking for.

Read more: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

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Today is King’s Day! At least, it’s King’s Day in the Netherlands. April 27 marks the 51st birthday of our King Willem Alexander and is a national holiday for all Dutch people. This year, we wanted to share our celebrations with all of you by giving you 20% off on our SEO copywriting course! Although Willem Alexander is king of the Netherlands, content remains king of SEO. In this post, I’ll explain why content is so very important for SEO, I’ll share the three most important aspects of content SEO and how you can benefit from that 20% discount.

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Start ruling your rankings and grab this 20% discount now:

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Why is content king?

Content SEO is crucial because search engines read your website. The words you use on your site determine whether or not your site will rank on their results pages. Google’s algorithm decides the ranking of your site largely based on the content you publish. Of course, your website should also be well-designed, have a great user interface, and all the technical stuff should be covered. But without high-quality content, your site does not stand a chance in the search engines. Google just wants to give the audience a result that fits the search query. This means you need to be writing awesome and engaging content that answer the needs of your audience.

So how do you write awesome content?

Content SEO includes everything related to writing and structuring content on your website. There are three major elements you need to consider to produce content that will make your website rank well: keyword strategy, site structure and copywriting.

Keyword research

Proper keyword research will make clear which search terms your audience uses. This is crucial. Optimizing content for words that people do not use doesn’t make any sense. Doing proper keyword research makes sure that you use the same words as your target audience.

Site structure

The way your site is structured gives Google important clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine can understand what your site is about and which pages it will rank highest.

Copywriting

Finally, you just need to write compelling copy. Texts that are original and readable. Stuff people like to read. And you should optimize those texts for SEO.

20% discount on the online SEO copywriting training

The very best way to get started with content SEO is by doing our SEO copywriting training. Our online courses consist of lots of videos and reading material. And, we have lots of challenging questions to test whether you understood the material. This course also has 2 assignments which will be corrected by an SEO professional at Yoast. You’ll be asked to do your own keyword research and to write a blog post. You’ll receive feedback on both of your assignments. Our SEO copywriting course will help you become King (or Queen) of SEO! Good Luck!

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In my previous blog post, I wrote that the only way you could fail to write all those posts you had in mind was with the wrong planning. But, I knew already that I left out one tiny detail. While in theory, you’ll only need a site, ideas and inspiration to write your posts, there could be another factor you didn’t take into consideration: your inner critic.

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Your inner critic or inner editor is best described as a subpersonality that judges you and your abilities as you are working hard on reaching your goals. It’s often mean and can get you downright insecure.

Constant struggle

I started writing in my early teens and became an active writer during November, better known as National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo for short. In this month, it’s your goal to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. 50k is a lot, especially if your inner critic should’ve been cast in Mean Girls as Regina George’s evil stepsister. I learned about the inner critic principle during this month back in 2006. Since then I’ve known when my inner critic is talking.

I’ve struggled with my inner critic for a long time and we still don’t always get along. I found that I could have the perfect blog planning, the most brilliant ideas and an incredible amount of time, but still didn’t get started, or didn’t finish. I have 36 posts as a draft for my blog and a lot of them won’t ever see the light of day. It’s not that they are awful. Others might even think they’re good enough or funny enough and that I should just hit the publish button. My inner critic disagrees though, and that’s what’s keeping me in the past from updating my blog frequently.

Befriend your inner critic so you can silence it when it’s needed

After I learned about the inner critic, I taught myself to treat it as an enemy that should be locked up. During a NaNoWriMo event, we created an inner critic puppet and locked it up in a makeshift cage or tied it down. Whatever we did, we did it with the intention to shut it up.

I developed another strategy two years ago when I found that treating my critic as an enemy, was blocking me altogether. While it worked for almost ten years, I came to a point where I didn’t want to write anymore because of my inner critic. No matter what the people around me told me, I convinced myself that I was the worst writer ever. Now, I’ve befriended my inner critic so I can tell him to shut up — kindly.

I know this might sound strange, but I started visualizing my inner critic. Two years ago I talked to a haptonomist and she asked me why I wasn’t writing anymore. When I explained my fears and the principle of the inner critic, she asked me what it looked like and where it lived. My inner critic is big, blue and lives in a forest. It chews on and spits out whatever it finds on its path. I dubbed him my woolly monster. As I’m writing this, my inner critic, or the woolly monster, is telling me the readers might think I’m off my head. It also says I probably shouldn’t be writing this down. But if I don’t write this down, there won’t be a useful post today.

I kindly tell myself (or my woolly monster) that while I appreciate the feedback, it’s not the right time right now. It can come out after I’ve finished the draft of my blog post and am ready for editing. After that, I calmly remind it that one of my colleagues is reviewing and editing, if necessary, my writing as well. There’s no need for my inner critic to sabotage me because that’s what it can be doing.

What blogging for Yoast brought me

When I started my blog series over a month ago here on Yoast.com, I was excited to start. As I was struggling to get that first post written, Marieke told me to stop my perfectionism from ruling me. “There’s a blog team that will edit your posts if necessary,” she told me. And she was right. We have an amazing blog team and I’ve become a frequent visitor to their office the last few weeks. I meet with them to brainstorm, to explain my struggles or to ask for help. This collaboration led me to a big change for my personal blog as well: I now have my blog team.

Create a blog team

That’s right; I’ve created my a blog team. Sounds pretty professional, right? I didn’t do it on purpose by the way, but that sounds less professional. I’ve acquired people around me without them actively knowing I consider them a member of my blog team.

One of the most important members is my husband: he proofreads all my blog posts before I consider them finished. If he smiles or chuckles, I know I did a good job. And if he doesn’t like it or I face insecurities, he’s the first to provide honest feedback. The other members of my team are my close friends who have told me they love reading my posts. Sometimes I send them a draft and request feedback. Other times they send me messages telling me what they thought of my latest blog post. No matter the type of feedback I receive or request, it’s valuable to me. Not an entirely unimportant side-effect of this team: it satisfies my inner critic more and more each day.

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Perhaps you’ve read about the related entities patent which was recently granted to Google, or perhaps you haven’t yet. You should read Dave Davies post about it on Search Engine Land and find out more about it. The related entities patent gives us valuable insights into how Google identifies relationships between content. So, in this post, I’ll try to explain a bit about the patent without making it all to complicated. And, I’ll discuss the importance of the patent for your content SEO strategy.

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What is a patent? Why is it important?

Google applies for a lot of patents. When the patent is granted, it gives us information on how they engineer their search engine. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, you should check out Bill Slawski’s site SEO by the Sea. This specific patent about related entities implies that related entities, related content, and relations in general are becoming more important.

It’s important to remember that we do not know exactly how Google has applied this specific patent in its search engine. We can only guess, test and speculate how Google will use it. The way the search engine works and how it serves the results to our search queries give us a lot of information though. Think of it as an educated guess.

So what does this mean? What does Google do with it?

In his post on Search Engine Land, Dave Davies explains beautifully how these related entities work. Google has an actual entity database in which it saves which concepts and which identities belong together. This database is ever growing, and Google learns more and more about how things are related to one another. This means that if certain concepts turn up together in content in various places on the internet, Google will save these in its entity database. This process is ongoing, which means that for some searches, you won’t get the same rich result as for others. Try searching for [types of cheese] and [types of shoes] to see the difference.

While Dave Davies was mainly talking about entities as big things – presidents, people, actors; I think that words, things and concepts could also be entities. Thinking of words and concepts as identities, which are also saved in that entity database, will have some consequences for copywriters and content SEOs. Of course, this is speculation. Nobody knows exactly which concepts are in fact treated as entities by Google.

google entities types of pasta

After typing [types of pasta] Google now shows this entity-based rich result

Clicking on Tagliatelle leads to relevant search results. A breadcrumb path shows the connection to the main subject

Let’s look at an example to figure out what it means if words and concepts are considered entities. Google will probably notice that in content about [tagliatelle], the words [pasta] and [spaghetti] will also appear rather often. These words will probably be linked together in Googles entity database. If someone is searching for [tagliatelle] in Google, content without the words [tagliatelle] but with the words [pasta] and [spaghetti] could also pop up in the search results. This would mean that the exact word matching would become less important. It’s all about context. And, we have seen this in the past few years. Google has become more and more adept at matching a search query to content without the exact search phrase in the text.

What does it mean for content SEO?

I think that the exact matching of a search query will become less important. Concepts, words and things related to a specific topic will become more important. By using the words, concepts and phrases related to tagliatelle in your post, you’re increasing your chances to rank for the term ‘tagliatelle’.

What about keywords?

That does not mean, however, that you should not focus on keywords anymore. Google is getting better at establishing what the audience is searching for. But you should know what your audience is searching for when you are writing. You should know which words, concepts and phrases they are using. And you should use those same words as well. You want your audience to recognize your text as an answer to their search query. You should keep on using the keywords and keyphrases that your keyword research provided. Don’t go overboard though, and use your keyword carefully.

Write an awesome text

I think the most important thing to realize is that a keyword is not a topic yet. It cannot be seen as an entity as it does not have the correct context. You’ll need an angle, a specific story around a keyword, a good idea to write a blog post. An idea in which the desired focus keyword could have a prominent place. You should think about your audience. What do you want to tell your audience? What’ll be the main message of your article? And what is the purpose?

If you write an original article, an article people would want to read; you’re probably already using all of the terms that are related to your keywords. It’s rather hard to write a blog post about tagliatelle without using the word [pasta]. You’ll use the related entities, simply because they are related. It’ll probably just come natural, as long as your trying to write an original text.

Think about synonyms, related words and concepts

Although I think that if you’re writing a good text with an original idea, you’ll probably already be using all the related concepts you should be using; you should also think of synonyms to your keyword. Take a moment and try to come up with a few alternatives for your keyword. Think of things that are strongly related to your keyword. Use these words in your text and you’ll probably increase your chances to rank. Besides, your content will be more pleasant to read as well!

Conclusion

Keywords remain essential. However, the exact matching of a keyword will become less important. And synonyms and related concepts will become more important. We don’t have a bullet for synonyms or related words in our SEO analysis yet. I guess that’s a hard one to establish. Could we do that? Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Gutenberg is coming. It’s a really big thing in the world of WordPress. At Yoast, we are really busy making sure our Yoast SEO plugin integrates nicely with the new editor. So we talk and think and a lot about Gutenberg. But as a writer, I didn’t really use Gutenberg yet. And this made me wonder: What is it like to use Gutenberg? Does writing with Gutenberg feel any different? Is it easier? Will I have more fun? Is it a good writing experience? In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on the new editor from a writer’s perspective. 

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What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg will become the new default editor of WordPress. The biggest change from the current editor is the introduction of blocks. In the new editor a paragraph, a title or a picture will be a block. You can add a new block, choose what kind of block it will be, and easily edit it the way you want to. Blocks are flexible and can be shifted dynamically around the page.

With the plus sign you can add a new block in the Gutenberg editor

Read more about the Gutenberg project on WordPress.org. The Gutenberg editor is going to be released in the 5.0 update of WordPress. It is not clear when exactly this update will appear, but it should happen somewhere in Spring 2018.

Starting out as a skeptic

I have to be honest. I was rather skeptical about Gutenberg. Prejudiced even. But, I installed the Gutenberg plugin on my personal website and started writing a blog post. Trying to be as open minded as possible. And, I can’t deny: it was really easy. I even forgot for a moment I was testing out a new editor. It didn’t feel weird or new to me at all. Main conclusion: I’m really enthusiastic about Gutenberg.

Intuitive and easy to use

The Gutenberg editor has an intuitive design. For me. And if it’s intuitive for me, it basically is intuitive for everyone. I am not that savvy. It didn’t take much effort to find out how to choose a new heading. It took me just a little bit of clicking to figure out how to insert a picture in my blog post. I could do all the things I do while writing a blog post, just as fast as I always do. At the same time, my screen was rather empty. I liked that. There was little distraction.

Some great advantages over the old editor

The Gutenberg editor has some great assets that could genuinely help people to write better texts. I like that every time you hit enter, a new block emerges. If you go on typing, you’ll create a new paragraph. In my opinion, most writers do not think enough about why they start a new paragraph. They just put whitespaces in when they feel like it. Hitting enter in Gutenberg will create a new block. I believe this will help people to think more about the structure of their text.

Hit enter and Gutenberg will create a new paragraph.

I also love the fact that the editing options are not hidden away at the top of your post. If I want to add a link in my text in the old editor, I have to go all the way to the top of my blog post. That’s a lot of scrolling.  I think I will add much more links to my text when using Gutenberg. Because it is so much easier. And adding (internal) links to your blog posts is important for SEO. Inserting pictures has become much easier too. 

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Some downsides…

I understand why dynamic blocks are appealing. And I do think the flexibility of the blocks will come in handy to get the correct place for a picture or a quote. However, I do not like the fact that it’s so easy to dynamically shift paragraphs and headings. I’m a bit scared that people then feel free to shift their paragraphs while writing. And, from my point of view, the best texts are written after the author carefully established the structure of his or her argumentation. No dragging and dropping there.

Another downside was my experience as I tried to copy and paste a text from Google docs in the Gutenberg editor. In the current editor it takes a lot of work to get the formatting of your article right. That did not work perfectly in Gutenberg either. It does strip out the superfluous HTML code though. Other things went well, like transferring headings, but some paragraphs were transformed in a single block, while other paragraphs were merged together in one block. I could not figure out why. As lots of writers won’t write in the WordPress backend, but in another editor, this experience should be really smooth. A flawless experience would be a tremendous improvement compared to the current editor.

Conclusion

For me, writing with Gutenberg was not all that different from writing in the old editor. And, scrolling down gave me the Yoast SEO meta box, with suggestions to improve my writing and SEO. Yoast SEO already works. The Gutenberg editor offer lots of chances to improve our plugin. We’re working on awesome redesigns to make the writing experience even more awesome. So stay tuned!

Read more: ‘User-testing Gutenberg’ »

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You’d like people to click on your result in Google rather than on the result of one of your competitors. That’s why you need to make sure your search result (a.k.a. your snippet) stands out from all of the other ones. So, how do you do that? How do you write an awesome meta description? How do you make people click your snippet? Here, I’ll tell you all about how to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description. 

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What is a meta description?

A meta description is a description you manually add to your blog post or page. And it tells the reader (and the search engine) what your post is about. It contains up to 320 characters that summarizes a page’s content. Generally, search engines show the meta description in the snippet when the searched phrase is in the description. 

Recent changes

Google changed the rules concerning meta descriptions not that long ago. Nowadays, meta descriptions can be up to 320 characters. We’re currently carrying out research to figure out whether a 320 character meta description or the old fashioned 160 character meta description is the most SEO-friendly.

To be totally fair, Google certainly does not always show the meta description, even if you add one to your article with Yoast SEO. Sometimes Google just decides otherwise and generates something else. Google always wants to show the word people are searching for in the meta description. They usually light up in the snippet. Make sure you’ve done your keyword research properly and use the words people are searching for in your meta description. That’ll increase the chance of Google showing your kick-ass meta description.

Using Yoast SEO for your meta description

You can edit your meta description in the snippet preview in the Yoast meta box, that you’ll find under your post or page. If you want to write one, you should click on the “edit snippet” button. If you do that, the snippet editor will open. You’ll see input fields to edit the SEO title, the slug and the meta description: 

If you start typing in the meta description field, the snippet preview at the top of the snippet editor will also immediately show your new text. Underneath the meta description input field, there is a bar. It’s orange when you start typing and will become green when you’ve added enough information.

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What happens if you do not write one?

If you do not write a meta description, Google will generate one. That could be the first paragraph of your blog post, but it could be something else as well. We’d advise you to write one because it’ll increase the chances of showing an appealing snippet. This will positively affect the click-through rate (how many people click on your snippet). In many cases, however, Google will decide to show something else.

If you do not do anything with the meta description field in the Yoast SEO plugin, the snippet preview in the Yoast SEO plugin will still show a meta description. This one however, is NOT saved as a meta description by our plugin. It’s just an example for what your snippet could look like. 

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Don’t forget it!

It is important to create a good meta description. You should definitely make an effort of writing a good one. Google is getting more and more capable of determining the topic of texts. If Google decides to show something else, it’s usually not a very bad description. Still, a properly crafted meta description can increase the chances of people clicking on your snippet. And using Yoast SEO to write a meta description will help you influence that. So you just have to make the effort to write a good one!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: How to optimize a blog post’ »

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

Configure Yoast SEO properly

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

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Keyword research… always

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

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

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

Write awesome content

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

Internal linking

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

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

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Social previews and redirects

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

Don’t forget your competition

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

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

Conclusion

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

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

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At Yoast, we like to say ‘Content is king’. By this, we mean that you cannot rank for any keyword if you don’t write meaningful and original content about it. In this SEO basics post, I’ll explain why you absolutely need content to make your site attractive for your visitors. Also, I’ll clarify why Google dislikes low quality or thin content and what you can do about it.

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Thin content

So what is thin content? Thin content is content that has little or no value to the user. Google considers doorway pages, low quality affiliate pages, or simply pages with very little or no content as thin content pages. But don’t fall into the trap of just producing loads of very similar content: non-original pages, pages with scraped and duplicate content, are considered thin content pages too. On top of that, Google doesn’t like pages that are stuffed with keywords either. Google has gotten smarter and has learned to distinguish between valuable and low quality content, especially since Google Panda.

What does Google want?

Google tries to provide the best results that match the search intent of the user. If you want to rank high, you have to convince Google that you’re giving the answer to the question of the user. This isn’t possible if you’re not willing to write extensively on the topic you like to rank for. Thin content rarely qualifies for Google as the best result. As a minimum, Google has to know what your page is about to know if it should display your result to the user. So try to write enjoyable, informative copy, to make Google, but first an foremost, your users happy.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: What does Google do?’ »

Be the best result

We recommend writing meaningful copy about the keywords you’d like to rank for. If you keep a blog about your favorite hobby, this shouldn’t be much of a problem, right? If you write about something you love and know everything about, then it’s easy to show Google that your pages contain the expert answer they are looking for!

We do understand that every situation is different and that it’s not always possible to write an elaborate text about everything. For instance, if you own an online shop that sells hundreds of different computer parts, it can be a challenge to write an extensive text about everything. But at least make sure that every page has some original introductory content, instead of just an image and a buy button next to the price. If you sell lots of products that are very alike, you could also choose to optimize the category page instead of the product page or to use canonicals to prevent duplicate content issues.

How do we help you?

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you write awesome copy. It does that by providing content analysis checks. One of these checks is to write at least 300 words per page or posts. We also check if you haven’t used the same keyword before, which helps prevent you from creating similar content over and over. Another check that’s useful for this, is our keyword density check. If your score is too high, you’re probably stuffing your keyword into your copy, giving it an unnatural feel. So make sure at least these bullets are green.

content checks thin content

On top of that, you can use our readability check to make sure the quality of your text is good and readers can easily understand the text you’ve written.

Really want to learn how to create content that ranks? Then our SEO copywriting training probably is what you need. It guides you through the entire process of keyword research and content creation, helping you to develop the skills to write awesome content for your website!

Keep reading: ‘Content SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

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