If you own a website, you have to think about the structure of your site, whether it’s a blog or a shop. Site structure is essential to help users find their way on your site and it helps your site to rank. So your site’s hierarchy needs to make sense to both users and search engines. When you’re creating one, you might wonder if your structure is too deep or too shallow. Let’s take a look at an example.

Milada Sejnohova, emailed Ask Yoast with the following question:

“How deep can I make the site structure of my blog? Can I make it for instance:

  • Elemis
    • products
      • anti-aging?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Depth of your site structure

In the video, I answer Milada’s question:

Well of course you can!

First of all, if you have a products section, then it’s not a blog, it’s a website.

And two, your structure (products and then anti-aging) is a perfectly reasonable way of setting up your site. As long as it’s useful to users and it makes sense, you’re okay. It has to make sense for someone who has never been on your site.

What you really should be thinking about is: if I come to your site and I’m on any page on your site and I know that something should be there, do I know how to get there easily? Because that’s determined in large by your site structure. So make it as easy to understand as possible! 

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘The ultimate guide to site structure’ »

Business to Business (B2B) marketing is often different from Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing thanks to the elaborate buying processes, a narrow market and more complex products and services of a B2B website. In this article about B2B SEO, I’ll compare the distinctions between the two and explain what that means for your B2B website and SEO.

When reading the above, you might think: “In both cases you’re selling products or services to a customer, and you want those products to be found and ordered, so what could be the difference?” While that might be true in case of, for example, office supplies, there are instances of B2B products and services that do require a different approach, especially when it comes to more specialized, complex, technical and expensive products, ordered by larger organizations with multiple stakeholders, so you’ll have to adapt your website to take those distinctions into account.

Differences between B2B and B2C

So, what are the main differences between B2B and B2C trading?

  • The buying process can take much longer, often involves more stakeholders and specific requirements;
  • The products and services can be more complex and more costly;
  • Professionals usually speak a certain jargon to describe their products;
  • Size of the market: the B2B market generally is much narrower;
  • Ordering scale: orders for businesses can be much larger.

How do these dissimilarities affect the goal of your site, your keyword research and the web content you present to your audience? Let’s go into detail!

1. Buying process in a B2B market

In general, the time required to close a deal in the B2B market is much longer than the time that’s needed to get a B2C order. Even the most expensive B2C products, like holidays or cars, only take a few weeks between gathering information about the product and ordering it. When it comes to ordering products or services as a business, it might take weeks or even months before the decision is taken to order the product. This mostly related to the amount of money and the number of stakeholders involved.

Let’s look at an example of buying a complex technical installation or expensive software: The user of the machine or software wants know the features and how it works. The technician has to take a look at the performance of the machine or IT has to evaluate the possibilities for integration. Finance is interested in the costs of buying and maintaining the machine and, the managing director wants to know if it will help his staff to perform better and, in the end, probably needs to give his seal of approval too.

An extensive buying process like this, influences both the goal of your website and demands some extras from your web content:

B2B and the goal of your site

On a lot of B2C eCommerce sites the goal is to get the sale done as fast as possible. People look for a product they’re interested in, find it, think about it, add it to their cart or perhaps wait a day or two, and then decide to buy it or not.

A B2B website, especially when it comes to complex and expensive products and services, is much more aimed on getting sales leads from a website. Customers won’t order a $25.000 machine or 300.000 medical gloves in a split second, so they’ll gather more information, and probably want to contact a sales rep or product specialist to get more details on the products or services as well. Perhaps they’d even like to order a sample of the product, or test it.

Obviously, you should mention all these options on your site. Make it as easy as possible for your potential customer. Display the phone number on a prominent place on every page of your site. Create easy to use forms to request for a sample, a trial or a quote. Perhaps customers can directly email product specialists or ask them questions in a chat? Whatever possibilities you offer, make sure your prospect can’t miss them!

Read more: ‘What’s the mission of your website’ »

B2B sales and your web copy

In the B2C market, the buyer is also the person who is going to use the product. This doesn’t always apply to B2B. As mentioned above, many people are involved in the purchase of larger B2B products. To ease the decision that has to be made you’ll have to address different stakeholders in your web copy. Define which stakeholders there are and make sure to provide all of them with the necessary information. Whether that’s the staff that will use the equipment, the technician, IT, finance, the manager or the director.

So your site will need quite a bit of information. Remember that, compared to B2C purchases, there is less emotional involvement with the purchase of a product or a service. This means that you want to communicate solutions, rather than the beauty and the esthetic value of the product. 

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

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2. The complexity of products and services

Another difference between B2B and B2C is that, generally, B2B products and services are more complex. Not many people use, for instance, an X-ray machine at home. But, your B2B customer doesn’t even have to buy a complicated machine or software to be interested in very detailed specifications.

I used to work at a company that sold medical supplies, like exam and surgical gloves. If you would compare buying disposable housekeeping gloves to buying medical gloves, you’ll find out that even for a ‘simple’ product like that, obviously, the requirements will be much higher. Before buying, the hospital will want to find out: What material is it made of? What’s the exact thickness? Does it contain latex (allergies)? How’s the texture? Is it tested for use with chemotherapy drugs? Is it certified? Can you scientifically prove the claims you make about this product? And so on.

Complex B2B products and your web content

Tip: Show how it works!

At Yoast, we’d like everyone to comprehend all the possibilities of our Premium plugin. Therefore we recorded various videos and screencasts to show how easy it is to use these features.

The complexity of the products and services mostly affects your web content. Clearly, describe specifications and features in detail. Also, include information that helps your prospect how to use the equipment or software. How do you work with these features? Help potential customers understand your product by adding detailed descriptions, imagery and product videos. Just show how easy it is to work with that complex machine you’re selling!

Potential customers that still have questions should be able to contact you easily through your website. So besides providing sufficient information on how to use the product, get your sales team and product specialists geared up to answer those questions. And, in case of complicated product and services, show how your support team helps your customers out, if they would encounter problems after a purchase.

Not only is well-written, explanatory content necessary to help visitors understand your product, if you write about the right keywords, it’s one of the most important assets that will get people to your website in the first place! This is closely related to the next characteristic of B2B: the use of jargon.

3. Jargon

Every field of expertise has its own language. And people in a certain industry might not even be aware that they’re using very specialized words. Nevertheless, often these will be the words they’ll be searching for when looking for products or services online. So make sure you know which search terms they’re using! This is crucial for your keyword research, as I’ll elaborate on below.

Jargon and B2B Keyword research

When you’re doing keyword research – whether that’s for B2B or B2C – it’s essential to get to know your customers. Don’t assume you already know them! Take the opportunity to speak with customers and prospects, find out which stakeholder does the most searching for the business when it comes to finding a product like yours. Is it the manager? The user? Or the purchase department? For your website to be found, you’ll have to write enough high quality content on your site, in which you speak the same language as this stakeholder.

A mistake that businesses often make is heavily promoting a product name, instead of using the search terms their prospect use. If you’re brand is really famous for a certain product, that might work. In most cases though, you’re prospect will be searching for a type of product, so the search volume for that term will be a lot bigger. It does mean you’ll have to compete with your competitors to rank for the same search terms. But that’s when a great content SEO strategy can help you out.

One more thing on jargon: to be found you’ll need to use some specialized word. However, don’t overdo this! Balance the use of difficult, industry specific words with the use of clear and easy to comprehend language. Keep your text readable, the readability analysis of Yoast SEO will help you do so. You don’t want to scare away newbies to the industry! 

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

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4. Size of the market

Most consumer goods are of interest to a large part of the population. Marketing these products is therefore aimed at a very wide audience. Specialized, business related products will only matter to the folks working in a certain field. This means you’re selling in a much smaller market, a so called niche.

Niche products and SEO

In terms of SEO this does have some advantages. Your target group might be smaller, but there might be less competition too. To become successful in a niche you should write great informational content on the keywords your prospects use, as described above. To increase the chance for ranking you can first focus on long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are keywords that include specifications or features of a certain product. The search volume for these terms is lower, but there’s less competition for them too, which makes it easier to rank.

Let’s go back to the example of medical gloves. Although a niche market, it is quite competitive. Ranking for the keyword [medical gloves] therefore will be difficult. Luckily there’s enough opportunity to specify your product. What if you would optimize your copy for [blue non-latex surgical gloves] and [pink nitrile exam gloves]. There will be less web content on these search terms, so it will be easier to make it rank. On top of that, you could write copy that goes deeper into certain specifications of your product, like why a hospital should choose for [non-latex surgical gloves].

The next step would be to create an awesome site structure, that shows Google the connection between all the content you’ve created. You can do so by internally linking related content and defining and linking to your cornerstone content.

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to site structure’ »

5. Scale

The last characteristic of B2B trading I’ll discuss is the scale. Order quantity usually is much higher for businesses than consumers. Therefore, total costs are higher for businesses. Often, they like or even expect to negotiate their own price or, at least, get scale discounts. This means you should either present scale discounts on your website or clearly show how they can easily contact a sales person, so they can get a quote or negotiate their own discount. Preferably, you would do both.

Conclusion

Building a good B2B website is hard work. When working on it, keep the following things in mind:

  • Think thoroughly about the goal of your B2B site and translate this into features on your website.
  • Write content that addresses all the stakeholders that are involved in the buying process, and speak the same language as they do. You really need to get to know your audience to do so!
  • Explain and show explicitly how your products work.
  • Do your keyword research and write awesome content on the keywords your audience uses. Don’t forget to focus on those long tail keywords first.

Good luck! Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!

Read on: ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’ »

If you own an eCommerce site, a product can run out of stock. When a product becomes permanently unavailable, what should you do with the product page in your online store? Delete that specific page? Set up a redirect? Show alternatives? Or just leave the page as it is? This Ask Yoast will help you make the best decision when a product goes out of stock.

Brad Griffin out of Texas USA emailed us:

“When a WooCommerce product is out of stock, I’ve got a couple of options: a redirect; a fallback URL; a waiting list; or delete it and do nothing. Let’s assume that the product is a one-time sale, it’s not coming back. What should I do with that URL?

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Best practice product out of stock

In the video, we explain which options you have when a product goes out of stock and what would be the best decision:

” Well, Brad, simply delete it and do nothing is not an option, because people might have linked to that URL, so you want to send them somewhere decent. And a waiting list would be weird, because the product is not coming back.

So, I think you’ve got two options:

1. Redirect them to the category that the original product was in and make sure that they land on something that feels somewhat close to what they were looking for if they wanted to get to that URL.

2. Show them a page saying: Hey, we had this product. We’ve sold it, but we’ve got these other options:…, …, …,  (show alternatives).

Those are really your only two real options.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide’ »

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

Ask Yoast Case studies

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

Improve the SEO of an online shop!

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

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

First impression of KnockKnock

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

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

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

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Content content content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Site structure

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

Conclusion

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

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

Every business owner with a website is looking for ways to get noticed in the search results. Today, there are loads of tactics to rank well as a local business, but there is no silver bullet: as with most SEO issues, this is a combined effort. One of these pieces of the local SEO puzzle is Google My Business, a dashboard for managing listings. But what is it exactly and why is it so important for local SEO?

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What is Google My Business?

My Business is Google’s one-stop shop to manage how your business will look and perform in the search engine. It is an essential tool to find out and adjust how your site shows in Maps, the Knowledge Graph, Google+ and organic search results. According to the 2017 edition of Moz’ Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, Google My Business continues to be the biggest driver of local SEO success, with quality links coming in at a close second.

You can manage your business listing by adding NAP details, opening hours, photos et cetera. In addition to that, it is possible to manage the reviews your customers leave behind. As you know, reviews should be a key factor in your local SEO efforts.

How does it work?

Getting started with My Business is easy; you have to make an account and claim your business. After filling in your details, you will get a real-life postcard from Google on the address you’ve specified. This card is the only proof you’re the owner of the business listed at the address.

Once verified, you can fill in all the necessary details and check how your listing is doing. You can even get regular insights to see how many impressions, clicks and subscribers your listing got over a period. It’s a great way of getting a feel for how your business is perceived by Google and customers alike.

Keep in mind that My Business is not the catch-all tool for your local SEO. It has to work in tandem with your on- and off-site SEO efforts. You won’t climb the charts if your profile is inaccurate, but you also won’t reach the top without a well-optimized site and localized content. These things go hand in hand.

Ranking factors

Google My Business uses many factors to determine rankings for businesses. We’ll highlight the three most important ones:

  • Relevance
  • Distance
  • Prominence

Relevance

Relevance determines how well your business fits the search intent of the customer. Is your focus identical to what the customer needs or are you a bit opaque about what your business does? Vagueness doesn’t rank. Be as clear as you can be. Keep your focus.

Distance

Distance is a well-known factor for ranking local businesses. You can’t rank in a local search for (dentist New Jersey) when you have located your company in Manhattan. The exact way Google determines which businesses to show in a local search is unknown, and it can be pretty hard to rank in a given area. The other factors play a significant role as well. It helps not just to say you are located in a particular area, but also to show it by creating local-oriented content around your business on your site. Google uses what’s known about the location of the searcher to present the most relevant local businesses.

Prominence

Prominence is all about the activity around your listing; this could be the number of reviews, events, local content et cetera. It also helps if you can get loads of quality links to your site. It is somewhat hard to determine what prominence means exactly, but one thing is sure: no one likes dead profiles. You have to keep it updated with new photos and manage your reviews. As said before, this works in tandem with your site, so make sure both listings align and that you publish local content.

Optimize your Google My Business listing

To start, you need to claim your listing. After that, you can use the following tips to make your My Business account a success. Keep in mind that everything you add must be in line with the information you provide on your site. Inaccurate information kills your listings and could kill your rankings:

  • Claim your listing with your actual business name
  • Choose a category as accurate as possible
  • Provide as much data as you can – your profile has to be 100%
  • Check your phone number
  • Check your opening times – think about holidays!
  • Review your photos – are they accurate and good or can you improve them?
  • Create citations on other sites as well – pick well-regarded business listing or review sites and directories, stay away from spammers
  • Keep your My Business listing in line with your site – and use Schema.org data
  • Above all, keep your data up to date

It’s critical to remember that this is not a set it and forget it type of thing. Things chance, your business changes. Keep everything active, monitor reviews and stay on top of things. It’s frustrating if your listing doesn’t perform as well as you’d like, but keep putting in the hours, and it will work. US businesses can check their listings with this tool by Synup: Google My Business Guidelines Checker.

my business guidelines check

Structured data and Yoast Local SEO

Google increasingly depends on structured data to find out what your site is about and which elements represent what. This is most certainly true for your business information, including the information that My Business uses. Make sure you add the correct structured data to your site. Enhance your NAP details, opening hours, reviews, product information et cetera, with Schema.org data. This will make it much easier for Google to determine the validity of your listing. Several tools can help you with this, including our Yoast Local SEO plugin.

Your local SEO is critical, even with Google My Business

So, you should activate and maintain your My Business account, and make it awesome. But the most of your listings and to get good rankings, you must have your site in order as well. Optimize every part of it. Create local content for your chosen keyword and business location. Acquire quality local backlinks to build up a solid link profile. Ask customers to review your business onsite or on My Business. Make sure your listing is active and attractive. Dead profiles are no good.

Read more: ‘Local ranking factors that help your local business’ SEO’ »

If you’re a well-known local business owner, one of your online goals should be getting more local reviews from your (satisfied) customers. These reviews or ratings help Google in determining the value of your company for their users. If you have a nice amount of four-star and five-star ratings, Google considers you a more valuable result on their search result pages, which contributes to better rankings for your site.

Today, we’ll dig a bit deeper into these local reviews and convince you to ask your customers for reviews.

Google and local reviews

First, let’s see what Google has to say about local reviews. On their review datatype page, they clearly state that Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards with your business’ details.

They state that they’re using the following review snippet guidelines:

  • Ratings and reviews must come directly from the users.
  • There is a difference between these user ratings and critic reviews (human editors that curate or compile ratings information for local businesses). That’s a different ball game.
  • Don’t copy reviews from Yelp or whatever other review site, but collect them from your users directly and display these on your site.

There is a clear focus on genuine reviews. Add name, position, photo and any other relevant, public information on the reviewer. That always helps in showing that your reviews are indeed genuine

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Ask your customers for a review in person

It’s really that simple: ask your customers for a review. Yelp may advise against this, Google promotes it (Source: SEL). I agree with Google on this. A friend of mine is in the coaching business and he asks his customers after finishing the coaching process to leave a review on his Google My Business page. This, plus obviously an optimized site, has helped him achieving a local #1 ranking.

It might feel a bit odd, to ask your customers for a positive review. However, I bet most of your customers will be more than happy to do this for you. It’s a small token of appreciation for your great service, product or your friendly staff. If you believe in your business, and you’re taking extra steps to help your customer, your customer will for sure leave that review for you. Especially in local businesses, where you know your customer and perhaps have been serving him or her for decades, just ask.

Ask your customers for local reviews online

Feel free to ask your customer for a review on your website, for example, right after a purchase. If a customer wanted your product so bad he or she made the purchase, they may be willing to leave a review about their shopping experience as well. Even a simple “How would you rate your experience with our company” could give you that local rating you want.

Twitter

And why not leverage Twitter here? I find Twitter to work pretty decently for local purposes. There’s a separate ‘community’ of tweeps talking to each other on Twitter in our hometown. I’m sure most of them visit local stores. Not just that, but they’ll probably also have an opinion on these stores. And they might just be willing to share that opinion.

Facebook

One of our local shops won a national award and a lot of locals congratulated the owners with this ‘very much deserved’ win on Facebook. How’s that for an opportunity to ask for Facebook reviews? Let me elaborate a bit on the Facebook reviews. These are local reviews as well! The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in NY has over 16,000 reviews already. Most good, some bad:

Local reviews on Facebook

Facebook is an awesome opportunity for any local business to get reviews. Don’t underestimate how many people search for your business on Facebook.

As mentioned in the section about Google and local reviews: “Don’t copy reviews from Yelp or whatever other review sites”. The same goes for these Facebook reviews. It’s very nice to get them, but leave them on Facebook (or use them in your offline print campaign) and get separate local reviews for your website.

Even negative reviews matter. Don’t feel bad when you get one, feel motivated!

Asking for reviews, for instance, right from your (support) email inbox, like in the signature of your email, might feel a bit strange at first. However, it will trigger your brand ambassadors to leave a review, after seeing that signature email after email. And yes, you will get some negative reviews as well from people that are not completely satisfied with your product or service. And you want these.

Negative reviews give you a chance to go beyond yourself in showing how customer-driven you are. They allow you to fix the issue this customer has. After fixing it, ask them to share the solution / their experience with your company, so others can see what you have done to turn that disappointed customer into a satisfied customer.

It’s your job to make your customer happy, and good reviews will follow. Speed up that process by asking your customers for their feedback!

Read more: ‘Local ranking factors that help your local business’ SEO’ »

If you own an eCommerce site, you might wonder how to optimize your category pages and your product pages. Could you have the same content on your category page and your product pages? If you have the same content on multiple pages of your website, would Google know what to rank first? Or would it cause duplicate content issues? This Ask Yoast is about the optimization of category and product pages of your online shop. Hear what I have to say about this!

Jeroen Custers from Maastricht, the Netherlands, has emailed us, asking:

“My product pages and category pages have 99% the same description, except for the color. Although the category page gets all the links, one product page ranks. Does Google see my pages as duplicate content?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Duplicate content on your shop?

Check out the video or read the answer below!

The answer is simple: Yes. So what should you do is optimize your category page for the product. And only optimize the sub pages, the product pages for the individual product colors, and then make sure that the category page gets all the links for that product. So you should improve your internal linking structure so that when you mention the product, you link to the category page and not to the specific color page underneath that.

If you improve that category structure in the right way, then that should fix it. If it doesn’t, then noindex the product pages and “canonical” all of them back to the category, so that Google really knows that the category is the main thing. That’s what you want people to land on. Most people want to see that you have more than one option.

If they search for the specific product and you do not noindex it, so if you choose for the first option, then Google should send them to the right page. So try that first. If that doesn’t work, noindex as product page and then “canonicalize” them back to the category.

Good luck!

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Crafting the perfect shop category page’ »

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

Sales copywriting

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

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

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What does your audience need?

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

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

Use words that appeal to your audience

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

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

Get to know your audience

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

Conclusion

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

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

If you have a big eCommerce site with lots of products, layered navigation can help your users to narrow down their search results. Layered or faceted navigation is an advanced way of filtering by providing groups of filters for (many) product attributes. In this filtering process, you might create a lot of URLs though, because the user will be able to filter and thereby group items in many ways, and those groups will all be available on separate URLs. So what should you do with all these URLs? Do you want Google to crawl them all?

In this Ask Yoast, we’ll answer a question from Daniel Jacobsen:

“Should I nofollow layered navigation links? And if so, why? Are there any disadvantages of this?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Layered navigation links

Read this transcript to learn how to deal with layered or faceted navigation links:

“The question is: “Why would you want to do that?” If you have too many URLs, so if you have a layered or a faceted navigation that has far too many options -creating billions of different types of URLs for Google to crawl – then probably yes. At the same time you need to ask yourself: “Why does my navigation work that way?” And, “Can we make it any different?” But in a lot of eCommerce systems that’s very hard. So in those cases adding a nofollow to those links, does actually help to prevent Google from indexing each and every one of the versions of your site.

I’ve worked on a couple of sites with faceted navigation that had over a billion variations in URLs, even though they only had like 10,000 products. If that’s the sort of problem you have, then yes, you need to nofollow them and maybe you even need to use your robots.txt file to exclude some of those variants. So specific stuff that you don’t want indexed, for instance, if you don’t want color indexed, you could do a robots.txt line that says: “Disallow for everything that has color in the URL”. At that point you strip down what Google crawls and what it thinks is important. The problem with that is, that if Google has links pointing at that version from somewhere else, those links don’t count for your site’s ranking either.

So it’s a bit of a quid pro quo, where you have to think about what is the best thing to do. It’s a tough decision. I really would suggest getting an experienced technical SEO to look at your site if it really is a problem, because it’s not a simple cut-and-paste solution that works the same for every site.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Internal search for online shops: an essential asset’ »

Once in a while, every company needs to take a closer look at the state of its marketing. Are you still sending the right message to your customer? Do you still target the same customers? And, in what way did these customers change? In this article, we’ll address a number of things every website owner needs to ask him or herself every now and then!

Let our SEO experts analyze and optimize your site: Get Yoast SEO Care! »

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Do as Amy says

Recently, we visited Conversion Hotel, an excellent event about (yes) conversion. One of the speakers whose story we liked best, was Amy Harrison. Amy talked about conversion copywriting and stated that when you lose customer focus, you’ll end up writing product focused copy or just using best practices from your industry. That won’t make you stand out from your competitors, and even worse: it won’t let you connect to your customers.

Amy talked about distinguishing yourself from your competitors. Don’t use terms like ‘high quality’ or ‘easy to use’. Amy calls these ‘umbrella terms’, as everyone in the industry is using these and it really doesn’t say anything about the product. You should focus on the gap between what you know, what you say and what the customer thinks that it means. Close that gap. Write about that to sell your product.

Closing the gap to your customer

If you want to know what your customer is looking for in your product, there are a number of ways to find out. They all come down to one thing: ask them.

Customer Survey

Especially when you have a larger user base, you can easily send out a survey every now and then. Literally ask the customer what could be improved, what they liked and, for instance, why a product did not meet their expectations.

One of the things we found, when asking our site review customers about expectations and ways to improve our product, is that many customers would really like regular guidance. Instead of just a one time report. After some thinking and shaping, that resulted in our new service: Yoast SEO Care. In Yoast SEO Care, we touch base with customers on a monthly or quarterly basis on what needs to be improved on their website to rank better or get more traffic.

For us, this is an ongoing process. Our products come with support, and our customers like to share their expectations and feature requests. Obviously, you could guide them in this by sending them a survey. That could be done every six months, or, for instance, six weeks after purchasing a product. It all depends on your need for input and the variety of customers you serve.

Questions on your site

Another way to get an idea of what your customers are looking for is, for instance, an exit-intent question. I deliberately say “question” (singular), as I wouldn’t bug the leaving visitor with a lengthy questionnaire. Just ask “did you find what you were looking for, and if not: what were you looking for?” or something similar. If you’re serious about UX, you know/use Hotjar. They actually have something similar baked in their product. The description says it all:

Ask your active users and customers WHAT made them choose you and WHAT made them nearly abandon your site. Discover WHO they really are and HOW to improve your site and Organization.

Note that Hotjar allows you to add a large survey, but why not limit that to one question, right? It’ll give you some nice, personal insights about what people are looking for on your website, just by asking!

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Yoast: Github feature requests

Now if you are a software development agency like we are, working in an open source environment, you probably have your code on (some platform like) Github. On that platform, you collect possible bugs and patches. In addition, it provides an excellent platform to collect feature requests.

We encourage users to use Github and not just send us random tweets with feature requests :) Feature requests on Github equal surveys on your website in the way that these are all things your user wants or expects your product to do. Sometimes feature requests can be handled quickly, when a feature is already there but just not found by your customer. Sometimes they end up on a pile of user/installation specific feature requests – you can’t win ’em all. But if a feature is requested by enough users, you probably are inclined to add it as a future feature to your roadmap.

These feature requests not only show what customers want, they also teach you a lot about how they use your products. And that, in return, will tell you more about their personal motivation to use your product. Which you can use in your product descriptions and marketing. Circle closed.

Read more: ‘Creating loyal customers’ »