You are a small business owner with a local target audience. Of course, your local audience needs to find your shop or office, and you want to use social media for that. But, in the plethora of platforms, you just have no clue where to start. So you post something on Facebook, try a tweet now and then, but nothing happens. To small business owners, social media can feel like a struggle every time. And perhaps that last word sums it all up: you are probably just putting your extra time into social media. Whereas investing actual, accountable time in social media will probably pay off way more.

Investing that time deliberately means you need to figure out some things first. Let us help you with that.

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What platforms should I use?

You need to find the social platforms your target audience uses. Otherwise, you won’t be able to reach the right people. There are (at least) two ways to find out what these platforms are:

  • Ask your customers what social media they use. That might be Twitter or Snapchat, but can also be Yelp or Meetup.com, depending on your type of business. Simply ask your customers and see what response you get. If you have hundreds of customers a week, this is probably not the best course of action.
  • Simply start using a certain social platform. And see what happens. I prefer this option over the alternatives. Try everything, keep track of the results, and stop doing the things that don’t work for your business after a couple of months. Don’t give up the next day, but set a goal for yourself and see if you can achieve that.

Read more: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin?’ »

Factors that influence social media for small business

There are many things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about social media plans as a small business owner. Your results will depend on the platform you’ve chosen, but the three factors below also definitely play a part.

Give it time

Keep your expectations in check: your social following won’t grow overnight. Don’t expect people to follow you right after creating a profile. You need to invest that time we talked about. And creating a profile isn’t investing time, that should be done in a few minutes. The actual time investment starts right after that.

Create relevant content

You need to make sure your messages/mentions/promotions/articles are worth sharing. In other words, your content, in general, must be relevant and worthwhile. At Yoast, we try to publish five articles a week, but only if we have something that deserves publishing. We’d rather skip a day than publish something that could backfire on (for instance) social media, due to lack of relevance.

The need for relevance can hold back certain businesses from using social media. People often say:

“But I have nothing worth sharing.”

That’s nonsense. If you are good at what you do, you’ll have projects, testimonials, pictures, and quotes worth sharing. No need to write new blog posts every day, simply find something you’re proud of and share it. And if you do want to start a blog, Marieke has some tips to get inspiration for you. For those who want to dive into blogging, there is always our ultimate guide to blogging.

Don’t give up

The third factor that influences social media for small business is determination. To work properly, social media for small businesses has to be a continuous process of publishing and engaging. Saying “I have tried social media and it’s just not my thing” doesn’t show determination. You may have tried Snapchat, and it’s not your cup of tea. That’s fine. But perhaps Facebook is. And maybe posting on Facebook isn’t for you, but engaging in Facebook Groups might be. I call bullsh*t on the statement that “social media isn’t your thing.” You probably just haven’t found the right medium or platform.

Social media usage for small businesses

Let me go over some social platforms and give you some ideas on how to use them. This isn’t a blueprint for your own social media strategy: the actual use will depend on your type of business and the time you are willing to invest in social media. Here are some ideas:

Twitter

Twitter is an excellent way to send messages and interact with your local community. Two things come in handy here:

  • Hashtags. Hashtags allow you to connect your tweet to an individual subject, without having to add an extensive introduction. It’s being used to tweet about television shows like #GoT or cities like #Seattle. Especially adding your town’s name to a tweet will get you local attention. We can confirm this works even for #Wijchen, the small town where we’re located.
  • Advanced Search. If you are looking for a way to get involved in relevant, local conversations, you should try the advanced search option on Twitter. It allows you to search for any subject you like, in the area you want. See screenshot below.

Social media for small business: Twitter Advanced Search

Facebook

First things first: is your company already on Facebook? I recommend adding it as a local business or place. Facebook has 1.94 billion monthly active users and 1.28 billion daily active users on average (Source: Facebook). Facebook is huge. That alone should be reason enough to add your business to Facebook. And adding your company to Facebook isn’t that hard. It’s a relatively small effort when it comes to social media for small business owners.

Promote your page to your personal friends, get likes, and share updates and photos. Note that for sales posts (“Buy our product!”), you have a better chance of success if you ‘boost‘ your post just a little bit. Boosting can be done for a specified audience, with the location being one of the filters.

Another reason Facebook is an attractive choice for your social media efforts is Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups can be about just about everything. A quick search for Facebook groups about Milwaukee shows how much variety there is:

Social media for small business: Facebook Groups Milwaukee

Pokemon Go, Refugee supporters, Saab, ukulele, auto modelers, running – you name the subject, and Facebook has a group for you. Usually, there are also networking groups for local business people. Just search and find the group that fits your need. Introduce yourself and your business, and engage in discussions. That’s an easy, time efficient way to promote yourself and your company to a local audience.

Instagram

Do you have product images or photos worth sharing? In that case, Instagram might be the social platform for you. Instagram works with hashtags, much like Twitter. I use hashtag apps like Hashme or Tag o’Matic to find the right ones matching my content. Hashtags on Instagram work like a charm when adding local content. An example:

#seattle #seattlelife #seattleart #seattleartist #seattlelove #downtownseattle #spaceneedle #spaceneedleview #spaceneedles #washington #spaceneedleseattle #washingtonstate #seattlewa #seattleskyline #seattlecenter

It took me 30 seconds to find 15 relevant local hashtags using that last app. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags a post, by the way. Use these to your advantage!

Of course, there are many more social media platforms for small businesses. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with options right now. One thing I would like to mention is that review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are also social sites. They shouldn’t be forgotten if your business is mentioned on these sites. Be sure to monitor your mentions there and act on them if needed. That’s also being social!

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Measure your social media efforts

We have written some articles on the various analytics tools for social media networks, and I’d like to point you to these as well. Keeping track of followers and reach gives you an indication of how well your strategy is working. Focus on the numbers that tell you something about engagement, to see what social networks do indeed help you build your community. Here we go:

  • Facebook Insights: Get 30 likes, and Insights will be available. After 100 likes on your page, you can even compare your numbers to the competition.
  • Twitter Analytics: See who your influencers are: the people that like your tweets and have a nice following of their own. Find local influencers and get acquainted with them: ask them to tweet about you now and then.
  • Iconosquare for Instagram: As there still is no proper analytics for Instagram from Instagram, I rely on Iconosquare for that. Use it to find the best time to post, and see what kind of content works best for your business.

Please check out these tools yourself. Keep a keen eye on trends and engagement, as that is the most important thing in my opinion.

The obvious social media strategy works best

I want to leave you with two final thoughts here:

  • Post engaging content, because that is the best way to build an audience. Sounds simple, but it is pretty hard. Don’t be afraid to experiment here. Usually, personal stories lead to the most and best engagement. Having said that, Yoast office life pictures on social media often lead to questions about the awesome features of Yoast SEO Premium (for instance). Keep an open mind and help any customer with whatever question they have, related or not. The engagement counts, not the subject of your post.
  • Your employees are your brand ambassadors on social media. They love your company, enjoy working there and are most likely to share a lot of your social content if not all. Your employees create that local snowball effect. After all, most of their connections on Facebook are probably/usually living in the same geographical area as you. Acknowledge this, and stay aware of the value of these ‘in-house’ shares.

That’s it for now! I’m sure I’ve convinced you that even as a small business, investing some time and effort into your social media strategy will pay off. So go for it! And feel free to drop any questions or thoughts about social media for small business in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate guide to small business SEO’ »

Social media endeavors should be a part of your SEO strategy. As social media usage increased in popularity, Google and other search engines couldn’t ignore them any longer. This means that your site’s popularity on social media ties in with your SEO more and more. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. In addition to that, you’ll want to know about these conversations. In this post, I’ll give you some fundamental tips on how to use social media.

How to use social media

Below are some tips you can use in order to set up or to improve your social media strategy:

1. Keep your account alive

The most crucial advice in the use of social media is that you need to keep your account ‘alive’. Make sure you post on a regular basis. Sharing your new blog posts is a good start, but also let people know what you’re working on or what interests you. If you go on vacation, schedule posts for the time you are away, or at least let people know when you’ll be back. And, after a while, you could repost older content to draw people to your website with existing content.

2. Write captivating excerpts

When you decide to share your blog post on social media, make sure to select or write a short and appealing excerpt in order to draw people in. You could, for instance, choose the most important sentence or the main point of your post. Or you could simply choose to share the introduction of the blog post, if you feel that is captivating enough. You want this piece of text to get people to click on the link and read the whole post. And do ensure that people can easily navigate to other pages on your website, once they are there.

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3. Diversify

You can share different types of posts on your social media account. As mentioned in point 1, you could share your blog posts, but you could also share short news items, videos or simply some (behind-the-scenes) pictures. These kind of posts can make our brand more fun and personal.

In order to decide which posts do well on social media, you should analyze the number of views, shares and likes. Of course, we’d advise to share types of posts that receive a lot of views and likes more often.

4. Handle comments

If you share your posts on social media, you could also receive comments. Don’t forget to monitor this. You should handle these comments swiftly.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

5. Use awesome illustrations

For some social media (Pinterest and Instagram) it is all about the illustrations. But also on Facebook visual content is really important. They make your post stand out from all of the other posts in someone’s timeline, and can boost clickthrough.

When you use Yoast SEO Premium you can check what your blog post or product page will look like, before sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. See how easy that is!

6. Be part of the community

If you’re active in a certain community or niche, you’ll soon discover other interesting people in that area that your audience follows. Follow them too and interact with them, this could help your and their audiences grow.

7. Add metadata

Smart use of (hash)tags can also help your growth immensely. For instance if you are at an event, include the hashtag for that event in your post, so everyone searching for that event will come across it. There are also hashtags for certain interests or technology. Some people might even retweet everything that is posted in a certain hashtag, which is a great way to boost your post. But don’t go overboard! Nobody likes a post that is filled with all kinds of random hashtags.

Conclusion

Social media is a key aspect of every SEO strategy. Setting up a decent social media strategy can be hard and will ask for a bit of creativity. And, it’ll definitely consume much of your time. But, it’ll be worth it! And if you think about it, social media and blogging are very similar in many aspects.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

To help your blog gain more readers, you can make use of social buttons which allow your current readers to share interesting posts on their social media accounts. But how should you go about implementing them? In this post we’ll explain how we’ve done this at Yoast and will give you some pointers on how to get started.

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What are social buttons?

For those who don’t know what social buttons are: They’re the buttons that you’ve seen around the internet that are usually placed somewhere below a blog post that allow readers to share articles on various social media platforms. This is great for gaining extra exposure and thus also getting more traffic to your website.

At Yoast, our social buttons look as follow:

Social Buttons

How did you implement these social buttons in WordPress?

Now you might be wondering about how these buttons were implemented. Your initial thought might be that this was added with some kind of plugin. However, at Yoast we decided to add it to our theme. This gives us extra control in how we style and display things. Of course we could have decided to add these buttons to a plugin, but the added benefit would be minimal for us.

We’ve decided to place the code for the social buttons in a template partial. This way we can easily embed it throughout the website without having to drastically edit template files or having to embed the buttons manually per post.

Here’s a basic example of how we implemented a social button for Facebook. Note that not all the code is actual production code and has been replaced with psuedo-code to make implementation easier to understand.

<?php
// File: <theme_folder>/html_includes/partials/social-share.php
function facebook_social_button() {
$article_url = get_article_url(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the article's URL.
$article_url .= '#utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social_buttons';

$title = html_entity_decode( get_og_title() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_title.
$description = html_entity_decode( get_og_description() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_description.
$og_image = get_og_image(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_image assigned to a post.

$images   = $og_image->get_images();
$url = 'http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?s=100';
$url .= '&p[url]=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&p[title]=' . urlencode( $title );
$url .= '&p[images][0]=' . urlencode( $images[0] );
$url .= '&p[summary]=' . urlencode( $description );
$url .= '&u=' . urlencode( $article_url );
$url .= '&t=' . urlencode( $title );
echo esc_attr( $url );
}
?>
<div id="social-share">
<div class="socialbox">
<a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" data-name="facebook" aria-label="Share on Facebook" data-action="share" href="<?php facebook_social_button(); ?>">
<i class="fa fa-facebook-square text-icon--facebook"></i>
</a>
</div>
</div>

The above code could be used in a similar fashion for other social media platforms, but it can vary greatly in terms of URL structure. We advise you look at the documentation of your desired platforms to ensure compatibility.

To include these social buttons in your blog posts, open up single.php in your theme’s folder and paste the following snippet where you want the buttons to appear:

<?php get_template_part( 'html_includes/partials/social-share' ); ?>

That’s it! If you don’t want to collect interaction data from these buttons, then this is all you need. If you want interactions to be tracked, then read on.

Tracking Interaction with Social Buttons

Having nicely styled social buttons in your website is one thing, but tracking the actual interactions with them would be even better.
At Yoast, we use JavaScript to ensure the tracking of the social media sharing is done correctly so we can easily see what social media platforms are popular among our readers.

The code for this is relatively simple and depends on the Google Analytics Tracker being properly implemented into your website. Assuming this is the case, the following code will be of great help:

jQuery( document ).ready( function( $ ) {
	$( '.socialbox a' ).click( function( e ) {
		e.preventDefault();
		
		if ( typeof __gaTracker !== "undefined" ) {
			__gaTracker( 'send', 'social', $( this ).data( 'name' ), $( this ).data( 'action' ), document.querySelector( "link[rel='canonical']" ).getAttribute( "href" ) );
		}
	});	
});

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The above JavaScript snippet passes in some of the extra information we passed along to the anchor tag. This extra information can be identified by the data- prefix and is retrieved by calling $( this ).data( [...] ). This method allows us to easily extend the social-share div and add more buttons.

If you want more information on how Google tracks this information, you can read about it here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not very difficult to add social buttons to your blog. Even tracking them in Google Analytics has become a breeze compared to past implementations.

All that’s left is to go and implement the buttons and allow your readers help promote your posts. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Social media optimization with Yoast SEO’ »

Literally, metadata is data that says something about other data. You can use particular metadata to send information about a webpage to a search engine or a social media channel, and thereby improve your SEO. In the first two posts of this metadata series, we discussed meta tags in headof your site and link rel metadata. In this last episode, we’ll scrutinize on metadata that can improve the sharing experience on social media. And last, but definitely not least, we’ll describe why metadata likehreflang declarations are a necessity if your business serves multiple languages and/or countries.

Posts in this series

Metadata #1: meta tags in the head

Metadata #2: link rel metadata

Metadata #3: Social and international

Social metadata

We have written about Open Graph and Twitter Cards before. These tags, or this information, is definitely metadata. It will help you tell social networks like Facebook and Twitter what the page at hand is about in an orderly, summarized way. It will allow you to control the way your articles or pages are shared.

OpenGraph

OpenGraph is a standard used by a number of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, these tags are added to your page automatically, and of course, you can control the contents of these OpenGraph tags (in the social section in our meta box below on edit pages).

Twitter Cards

The same goes for Twitter Cards. They add metadata to your pages that are convenient for Twitter to read and understand. Our plugin adds Twitter Card metadata as well. If there is no Twitter Card data, Twitter will fallback to OpenGraph data, but you obviously want to make things as simple as possible for that Twitter.

If you’d like a preview of how your page, shared on either Twitter or Facebook would look like, please check our Yoast SEO premium plugin, as that one adds these social previews right in your WordPress backend.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

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But wait, there is more important metadata!

If you thought that all the things previously mentioned are all the SEO related metadata for your website, think again.

hreflang tags to indicate other languages

For those of you that have multilingual sites, this one is really, really important. If you have a site or page that is served in more than one language, be sure to add hreflang tags to your page.

With hreflang tags, you can indicate the language variations of the page at hand. That looks like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" 
      hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" 
      hreflang="en-gb" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/de/" 
      hreflang="de" />

As you can see, these can be used for variations of the ‘same’ language as well, like the British English in the second line. Note that hreflang isn’t a substitute for the rel=canonical we discussed. Be safe, implement both. More information on how to implement hreflang can be found here.

Alt tags

If you think about it, any extra attribute you assign to an image, like the alt or title tag, is metadata. Google uses it to scan the page and see what’s on there, so be sure to add these alt and title tags and optimize ’em.

Microdata for breadcrumbs

For a better understanding of your site’s structure, you should add some kind of microdata to your breadcrumbs. That can be done by adding schema.org data for breadcrumbs, for instance by JSON-LDRDFa is another option to add this type of metadata to your website. Again, install Yoast SEO for WordPress and this is taken care of.

Language declaration for the page at hand

Let’s wrap this long list of metadata up with another language related metadata element. At the very top of your HTML, we find the, indeed, html tag. This one wraps all the code of your <head> and <body> and can contain the language of the page at hand. That is done like this:

<html lang="en">

Makes sense, right. Some might say that adding a meta tag for Content-Language is also an option, but following the W3C guidelines, that meta tag should not be used anymore. Use the lang declaration in the html tag instead.

That concludes this series with a lengthy list of metadata you can use to tweak your SEO. I am confident you can come up with even more metadata, as there is plenty. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

In Yoast SEO Premium 3.2, we introduced social previews. It works much like the snippet preview people have come so used to. As the snippet preview does for search rankings, we think social previews will improve your social workflow.

Social previews in Yoast SEO Premium

Which picture will Facebook pick?

When you publish a post and you haven’t specifically selected a Facebook image in our plugin, you don’t know which picture Facebook will use. Yoast SEO has a big hand in this process: it determines which images it “gives” Facebook with its metadata. When you specify a Facebook image, it specifies just that image. When you set a featured image for your post, that’s the image it will feed to Facebook. If you have no featured image either, it will grab the images from your post. Our social previews take the guesswork away and show you what Facebook will use.

It looks like this for this post (because I haven’t specified a specific Facebook image yet):

Facebook preview of this social previews article, showing the featured image and the meta description being used

As you can see this allows me to preview what my post will look like when shared on Facebook. We have a similar preview for Twitter. Both previews also have edit fields below them, allowing you to change the individual Facebook and Twitter metadata. That looks like this:

Twitter social preview with edit fields

Social metadata fallbacks in social previews

As you can see in the image above, you can upload a specific Twitter image. The one you’re seeing in the preview is the Facebook image I uploaded. If you only specify a Facebook image, Twitter will use that image too, which often works just fine. The description underneath that actually comes from the meta description.

Social networks all need similar data. All of them seem to fall back to Facebook OpenGraph data when no specific data was specified. Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ all use Facebook OpenGraph metadata. WhatsApp uses OpenGraph too, when sharing URLs in the messaging app. This is why Facebook OpenGraph is such an important part of our plugin. The previews will show you exactly what’s being used and what your post will look like.

Read more: ‘Social media optimization with Yoast SEO’ »

Social media like Facebook allow you to reach people that might be interested in your stuff. You’ll reach people who like your Facebook page, and you might even reach the friends of people who like your Facebook page. Some posts, however, seem to be much more successful than others. Why do some of your posts on Facebook get many likes, shares and comments, while others are largely ignored by your audience? In this post, I’ll help you optimize your Facebook reach.

How to optimize your Facebook reach

Best practices for increasing Facebook reach

If you want tips to be successful on Facebook make sure to read this blog post by Neil Patel. Neil analyzed 1 billion Facebook posts and his tips are really helpful to start optimizing your own Facebook page. Although we can learn a lot from his best practices, it’s very important to remember that your Facebook page and your audience are unique.

As you are trying out his tips, I would strongly advise you to analyze the reach and the engagement of your own Facebook posts. What posts does your audience like? Which posts reached a lot of people? And which posts were hardly noticed? What seems to work on your own Facebook page? And what can you learn from that?

Start analyzing regularly

If you want to be able to predict which posts will increase your reach and engagement on Facebook, you should start by checking out the Insights tabs on your Facebook page. And make sure to check out these stats regularly.

Look into the reach of each post (the number of people the post was served to) and the number of likes, shares and comments. If you do this on a regular basis, you’ll begin to notice patterns.

Read more about Facebook Insights in Michiel’s post!

Important aspects to consider

Whether or not a post is successful on Facebook could be caused by countless things: the length of the post, the topic of the post, the day of the week. But it could also be caused by world events, the weather or by pure chance. You won’t be able to fully control or predict your success. However, analyzing aspects of previous posts should give you some clues about what works for your audience (and what doesn’t).

Time and day of your post

The timing of your post matters. For some time slots (like at night) competition is low, for other time slots your audience will be more available and engaged. It’s a matter of testing which day and time will be most effective. For Yoast, weekdays are much better than the weekend. This will definitely depend on your audience.

Topic of the post

You’re most likely blogging about various topics and your audience will like some of them more than others. Check what posts do well with your audience; what topics are the most successful? Try writing more posts about those topics. Additionally, you could try to make your other posts look a bit more like the ones that are successful.

Purpose of the post

Closely analyze the purpose of your post. Did you write this post to inform your readers, or to entertain them? Or, were you trying to sell your stuff?  For Yoast, more “salesy” posts seem to get far less reach and engagements. Posts in which we announce a sale or introduce a new product seem to be the least successful ones in our timeline. 

Illustrations or videos?

Make sure to study the reach and engagements of posts with different kinds of illustrations, photos and videos too. Do posts with illustrations differ in their reach compared to posts without illustrations? Do posts with video get more likes or shares compared to the ones without?

Conclusion

To really understand what a successful Facebook post looks like, you really have to dive into your Facebook Insights. We’re currently taking our analysis a step further by doing an extensive research on what works on the Facebook page of Yoast.

For all of you, the ability to predict which posts are going to be successful on Facebook will also be very valuable. So go ahead and check out your Facebook Insights and start analyzing your posts!

Read more: ‘Facebook Page Insights explained’ »

This week we’ve got to catch up a bit, as I was away on holiday for a while. Luckily Google took it slow in the last few weeks, basically doing nothing really interesting. They did put out a lot of stuff, it just wasn’t all that interesting. Let’s go over the bits that are interesting.

Joost's weekly SEO Recap

AMP it up

At conferences, with demo sites, in forums, in blog posts and even in Google Search Console, Google is working hard to get people to adopt AMP. We’ve written about AMP before and I still don’t like it. It’s very much WAP all over again, it feels like going backwards. At the same time I do see the need to make the web faster for people in low bandwidth countries. We don’t feel that need as much where we are. The office I’m writing this from will soon have 3 separate 500mb (down and up) fiber connections. That’s more bandwidth than most countries in the world have per 1 million inhabitants, according to this list.

So in the next few weeks we’ll be implementing AMP here on Yoast. We’ve already seen that the go to AMP plugin for WordPress works but we need to fix some interaction issues between it and our Yoast SEO plugin.

Read more: ‘Weekly SEO recap: AMPlified spam’ »

Instant Articles for Facebook

In the same trend as AMP for Google, Facebook’s Instant Articles will soon (as in, in April) be available to all. There’s a WordPress plugin for that too, which I’m also looking at to make sure it sends the right data when Yoast SEO is installed.

Amit Singhal leaves Google

In the beginning of this month possibly the most shocking news of all came out. Amit Singhal is about to leave the company (end of next week actually). He was their head of search and very important in recent years in terms of choosing how search works and how rankings works.

Singhal’s replacement will be John Giannandrea, who is one of the most important artificial intelligence engineers in the company. If that doesn’t tell you where Google is going…

That’s it, see you next week!

joost signature

If you maintain a blog, of course you want the traffic to your blog to grow. But what if it doesn’t? What if the traffic to your blog is (slightly) decreasing? What do you do? In this post, I will give 5 tips on how to increase the traffic to your blog once again!

First check: is it a change in your rankings?

If the traffic to your blog is decreasing, you should first check your rankings. It could well be that something happened that changed your ranking in Google. A lower ranking could definitely explain a (sudden) drop in traffic. When you notice a drop in your rankings, you should take action to boost your website’s SEO.

Read more: ‘Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics’ »

When it’s not your rankings

But what if your ranking has stayed (relatively) the same? What strategies can you employ to improve your site’s traffic, besides the SEO stuff? These 5 tips should help you deal with decreasing traffic!

1. Use of social media

Social media are a necessity for the growth and marketing of your blog. As social media become more popular, Google and other search engines can’t ignore them any longer. So your site’s popularity on social media is also getting more and more important for your SEO. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. You’ll want to know about these conversations! Social media is a new kind of marketplace, where people share questions and reviews about products and events. You had better make sure those are your products and events, right? So, partaking in these conversations can be great for your brand and could lead to growth. It depends on your (desired) audience and on your content which social media are best suited for your blog.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

2. Commenting on other blogs

Another good way to get more exposure for your blog is by reacting and commenting on other blogs. Make sure to adapt your selection of the blogs to comment on to the audience you would like to address. That way, your comments will attract the kind of visitors you want on your own site.

If you read something interesting on a blog, you should comment. Especially when a post is about something you may have written about yourself as well. In your comment, you can share your view on the matter. You could also place a link to one of your own blogs. Make sure your comments are always nice and polite and comment only if your own post genuinely applies to the piece you are reading. You don’t want to end up in the spam filter!

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3. Write more ‘success’ posts

If you want your audience to grow, check the analytics of your blog regularly. What articles are the ones that people seem to read the most? What are the most important landing pages? These posts are the ones your audience seems to enjoy. Could you write more of these posts? Writing articles that are similar to your successful posts is a good strategy to get more visitors.

4. Send out a newsletter

Email is a great way to increase your customers’ retention. That means that sending emails will increase the amount of visitors that become recurring visitors. By emailing your customers on a regular basis, your brand will stay top of mind. Furthermore, they’ll return more quickly to read another post. Of course, your emails would have to be interesting, enticing and engaging for this to really work!

It’s relatively easy to set up a newsletter through a service like MailChimp. You can even target specific subgroups within your entire audience with a newsletter. Sending a nice email is also a great way to inform your readers that you have written new blogposts and that they should come and visit your blog.

Read on: ‘The basics of email marketing’ »

5. Start advertising

If you have a budget, you could decide to place ads on for instance Facebook or Google to promote your blog. Facebook also has the option to boost your post, making sure it’ll get more exposure. Using Facebook, you can even focus on the demographic you want to reach, with settings for age group, location, and interests, making it quite easy to target your desired audience.

Read more: ‘Facebook Page Insights’ »

Conclusion: stay active

Sometimes, your blog simply doesn’t get the attention and the traffic you want it to get. If neither your ranking nor your SEO has changed, you probably just need to put in a little bit of effort. Be active on social media and other blogs, write posts similar to those that are loved by your audience and do not forget to send out that newsletter. Don’t give up!

Keep reading: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post ’ »

If you have a restaurant and a restaurant website to go with it, you might want to read this article. We have covered a lot of topics on this website already but have decided to focus a bit more on specific types of websites in a number of posts to come. This one will be about what you need to keep in mind when planning or building your restaurant website and is focused on both restaurant owners and web development agencies.

how to optimize your restaurant website

First things first: what needs to be on your restaurant website?

When planning a website, it will pay off to ask around and figure out what your friends and family would expect on a website like yours. For a restaurant, I think we can agree on the following things that need to be on your website:

  1. Your address (and more). This is obviously the most important element: people need to know where you are. There is more than one way to share your address with your (potential) guests.
  2. Photos of the interior. If I’m going to spend my money in your establishment, I want to know I’ll have a cozy evening and a nice table to sit at.
  3. Your menu. Not your website menu, but a list of all the food you’ll possibly be serving me at a certain price.
  4. Client testimonials. All the good stuff people tell me about your place.
  5. A way to make a reservation. Obviously.

Now let’s look into these aspects of a restaurant website in more detail.

Your address (and more details)

If you add your address to your website, you want to do it the right way. First of all, you want it to be in a spot where everybody can find it without searching for it. That means adding it in a clear spot on your homepage, perhaps repeat it in your footer, and definitely put it on your contact page. On your contact page, you might want to consider adding a route map as well.

Schema.org/Restaurant

Don’t just add the address, but mark it up the right way. That means you’ll have to add schema.org markup to your address. The most obvious schema.org variation would be… Restaurant. This is actually a subschema of the FoodEstablishment schema, which allows you to add detailed stuff like acceptsReservations, menu and servesCuisine to your address.

All these details are added with the purpose of telling the search engine as much as possible about your restaurant, in a predefined way. It will make sure Google easily fetches the right information. That might already get you mentions like this:

Restaurant website: Restaurant listing in Google, Fat Duck example

That is actually a combined effort, I think. It’s a combination of listing the right information the right way on your website, and a good listing in Google My Business.

Google My Business

Never heard of Google My Business?

Google My Business complements your existing website by giving your business a public identity and presence on Google. The information you provide about your business can appear on Google Search, Maps and Google+.

Go read and list your website . Ask your visitor to leave a review on your Google My Business, as this seems to help your rankings at the Google map as shown above as well.

Google My Business might give you another edge: a proper listing in the Google search result pages’ sidebar (where they keep the Knowledge Graph):

Restaurant website: Restaurant listing in knowledge graph example

Nice, huh. Be sure to tell Google as much details as possible and see what they come up with.

Facebook Places

Like Google My Business, Facebook Places isn’t on your website itself. Still, it will pay off to list your restaurant here. Facebook is improving its search engine by the day, and if there is one place where all your friends have and share their opinion, it’s on Facebook.

Make sure you list your restaurant as a Place by adding all the basic information. If you list your restaurant in the Local Business category (be sure to do so), you’ll be able to list:

  • A short description
  • Your website, email, phone and address
  • A map to your restaurant

Besides that, listing your restaurant in the local business category, you’ll be able to allow check-ins and ratings & reviews and that is obviously just what you want! These check-ins and reviews are actually very important, as search results in Facebook are ranked by recommendations and check-ins from your friends. Besides that, “results that are similar to the people, places and things that a person is already connected to may be ranked higher.” All the more reason to list your restaurant on Facebook as well, and ask all of your friends to like, review and check-in to your restaurant.

TripAdvisor

I’m going to name TripAdvisor here as another place to list you restaurant, but it is obviously one of many other websites you can use to list your restaurant details, like:

Especially since your restaurant is a local business, adding your website to services like that will also help your SEO, as all of these have a local focus.

After adding your website to TripAdvisor, be sure to monitor your reviews on that website. Bad reviews are always a bummer, but not acting on bad reviews might be even worse. Engage with a disappointed guest and see if you can change his opinion to something more positive. Perhaps he just had a bad day, or your chef did. Most bad reviews are mere incidents.

If you want to improve your TripAdvisor profile, be sure to read these 8 steps to optimize your restaurant listing on TripAdvisor.

Photos of the interior

From a UX and conversion point of view, showing your interior makes a lot of sense. By showing the visitor in what great environment he or she will be dining if they come to your place, people can decide in advance if your restaurant matches the occasion. If we want to grab a quick bite, a pub-like establishment with wooden chairs and beer will do. If I have the whole evening planned for exquisite food, I might want to see chandeliers, candles, and glasses of wine.

It’s all about managing expectations on a restaurant website. If your website’s photos match the mood you want to set in your restaurant, first-time visitors will click to your reservations form and reserve themselves a table at your place. Don’t go cheap on this. You have paid a lot of money to get the interior the way you wanted it, now pay a great photographer to make pictures for your website (and menu/posters/flyers and Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook or whatever you can use these for).

If you are looking for insights on how to add these to your website properly, please read my post on image SEO.

Show your menu on your restaurant website

You spent all these hours coming up with your monthly changing menu, and now you’ve just put the PDF containing your menu on your website as a link. That’s ruining my user experience. I honestly don’t like to click a link on a website, only to find that it opens a PDF. There’s no need for that anymore as well. You can easily put your restaurant menu on a separate page on your website and link it from your website menu. You might still want to add a link to a PDF with the same content at the bottom of that page, by the way. For saving in Evernote, for instance.

As mentioned above in the Address section of this article, you could also add a link to your menu page in schema.org, just to top things off.

Testimonials

Next to the testimonials in Google My Business, be sure to add some testimonials on your website as well. That could just be one-liners spread across your website, but a decent testimonial will make that reservation easier. If other people like it, you might like it too.

We have done an article last year called Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust you should read. Although that article is mainly focused on e-commerce shops, your restaurant site will benefit from it as well. The main things to keep in mind when using testimonials: make sure they are genuine testimonials. Add the name of the reviewer, preferably a photo as well. And don’t be afraid to list these on a prominent spot on your website. It’s others doing marketing for you. Google lists them, as you can see in the above, so why would you hide these on a single page instead of listing them right below your reservations button?

One last thing: reservations

I already mentioned the option to add via schema.org if making a reservation is possible on your restaurant website. Would this have any influence on your rankings? Probably not. But if I need to make a reservation before eating at your restaurant, I want to know. And I want to be able to do this online.

Making a reservation online should be easy as pie. Enter your details, get a clear ‘sent!’ message and an email confirming your reservation. What you don’t want (true story) is an email afterwards that the restaurant is closed on the desired day. In my book, I  shouldn’t be able to make a reservation for that day in the first place. In conclusion: make sure people are able to make a reservation via your restaurant website, but only when possible and always make sure there is a clear communication afterwards.

That concludes this article on how to optimize your restaurant site. If you have (an example of) a restaurant website that nails this, I would like to invite you to leave the URL of that website in the comments!

Read more: ‘5 things you are doing wrong’ »

Last week, we’ve been talking about Twitter Analytics. Naturally, this next article in our social media series is about Facebook Page Insights. This post is about all the information that can be found in Facebook Page Insights, and what we feel does and doesn’t make sense to look at for most of our visitors. It all depends on the kind of website you have, of course.

Facebook Insights explained

Why you should check your Facebook stats

During a local networking event I recently visited, someone asked me what Facebook does for your sites rankings. Good question, especially since Facebook blocks a large number of posts for Google (you have to log in to visit most stuff, right). Except for public posts, that is – these obviously are indexed by Google.

Google does notice the number of links coming from Facebook to your website. The thing is, that when people talk about you on social media, you must be important for a certain topic, or one of your pages should be. If a page gets a lot of links to it, even from pages Google can’t read, Google can read that page on your website. And rank you for the subject of that page. There are more factors that should be taken into account, but this is the short version. Add that to the fact that Facebook search is getting better and better, as Joost explained a few weeks back, and you’ll have enough reasons to dig a little deeper in your Facebook reach and engagement. Facebook Page Insights helps you do this.

Assumptions

  • Get 30 likes
    You won’t be able to access Facebook Page Insights if your page has less than 30 likes. An easy way to increase this for new pages is to buy promotion from Facebook. But usually, 30 likes is something that can be achieved quite fast by just asking people to like your page. A couple of hours after getting that 30th like, Facebook Page Insights will be available at the top of your Facebook Page.
  • Historic data
    Please note that Facebook stores information about your visitors for 180 days. If you want to keep track of historic data, be sure to export it now and then via the export function in the main Insights menu at the top of your stats.
  • Time zone
    Facebook uses Pacific Time, so be sure to translate times to your own timezone. I use Google for that.
  • Glossary
    I’ve added a very small dictionary at the bottom of this post for terms specifically used by Facebook, like reach and engagement.

Facebook Page Insights

I’d suggest opening it in a second tab or browser window, so you can check all the things mentioned below for your own page. 

Facebook Page Insights provides you with loads of information about your visitors. The convenient thing with Facebook is that we all voluntarily enter all kinds of details about ourselves, knowing Facebook will use this to target ads and more. This information is pretty valuable for you as a Facebook Page owner as well. Facebook Page Insights will tell you for instance which posts had the most engagement from your fans, and what times your audience is on Facebook.

Page Insights Dashboard

Facebook Page Insights: dashboard example

When you click Insights at the top of your Facebook Page, you’ll see something similar. It was a bad week for us, or so it seems. You should always keep in mind that this is just one week, compared to the week before. We launched Yoast Academy’s Basic SEO Training on the 12th, so it makes sense that the week after that would have a little less reach or engagement.

Below the dashboard there is a nice overview of your last 5 posts. I’m a sucker for trends, not incidents, and that is why I hardly use this overview, but if you are in the middle of a campaign, this will provide quick information:

Facebook Page Insights: recent posts overview example

This is a nice, clean overview. It tells you:

  • the post type (e.g. video, link or image);
  • if you are targeting a specific audience;
  • the post reach;
  • the engagement (clicks, likes).

As with Twitter Analytics, I think the good stuff can be found on deeper levels in Facebook Page Insights. So let’s go to the first section: Likes!

Likes

The Totals graph is interesting, as it will tell you if your fan base has grown or not. Facebook Page Insights tells you about the likes you’ve gained, but also about the likes you lost. That can be due to people not liking your page anymore, or Facebook cleaning up their database. Facebook requires members to be human, that is why we always recommend creating a Page for your business, not a Profile (personal). Facebook is pretty strict about this.

It will also tell you the number of paid likes you received. I can recommend using Facebook ads / promoted posts on Facebook. It works. It’s as simple as that. As Facebook knows a lot about you all, and Facebook ads can be targeted right into your target audience, which can be adjusted per promotion. This will not only help you grow your likes, but it will also increase your reach for the next post!

Following the Total graphs, Facebook also tells you about where your likes come from. On a per day basis, you can tell what number of likes came from:

  • ads;
  • page suggestions (the People also like section);
  • on your page, or
  • page likes themselves.

Clicking a certain day in the graph will give you a nice pop-up with numbers as well. And a lot can be filtered by clicking the legenda next to the graph, or by adjusting the date range at the top of the page.

Reach

In the reach section, we find similar graphs and numbers. Where likes is about the click itself, reach is about the number of people that might have seen your post. Might have, as opening a page with your post below the fold and no scroll action, still seems to count as a view.

The section is about post reach and engagement and there is one extra interesting graph: an overview of Hide, Report as Spam, and Unlikes actions. Why is that interesting? Because it can tell you what post triggered people to ‘move’ away from your page. Let me show you an example:

Facebook Page Insights: Hide, Report as Spam, and Unlikes overview

We boosted our Basic SEO training post and that triggered a lot of impressions and engagement. It also caused an increase in the number of posts that were hidden from timelines:

Facebook Page Insights: Facebook Page Insights: Hide, Report as Spam, and Unlikes main graph example

Makes sense, right? Luckily, this might have caused just one person to unlike our page ;) If you post once per day, this will give you a nice overview of what type of posts to avoid or adjust to your audience. If your promoted post gets hidden, that doesn’t matter as much as a sudden increase in ‘dislikes’, of course. Promoted posts tend to surface quite often, and I might have hidden a few of your own promoted posts as well. No hard feelings.

Visits

The Visits section will tell you what tabs on your Page have been visited the most. That can be your timeline, the info tab or the videos tab, for instance. Most of the times it’s your timeline. But it’s nice (and probably not more than that) to see that other tabs are visited as well. Make sure there is sufficient content or information on these tabs for just that reason.

The second graph in this section could be more interesting to you. It tells you the referrals to your Facebook Page. For us, that graph just shows that most of our Facebook visitors are coming from our website. Nice to know. It becomes interesting when other websites besides your own and Google start to surface in this graph. Monitor it from time to time. This is data you won’t find in Google Analytics.

Posts

This is my favorite section, to be honest. The post section is about your content. Not just about what content, by the way. It starts with a nice overview of visits per hour:

Facebook Page Insights: hourly graph of visits

Remember what I said about timezones; this is Pacific Time. For us, that means posting on Facebook around 2PM would be smack in the middle of our peak hour.

Of course, this page will also give you valuable numbers on impressions per post and engagement per post. Use this to analyze what (type of) posts work best for your company:

Facebook Page Insights: Post Types stats

Video post (you might have seen a few of these) like our weekly recaps, get roughly 2.5 times the clicks of link posts, with only twice the reach. That’s interesting and the reason we focus a lot more on video now.

Facebook Page Insights provides some more insights on that, by the way. If you go to Insights › Posts › All posts published › click the video post you want to check › Post details › Video, you’ll find this:

Facebook Page Insights: Video stats details

No, we are not going to make 37-second videos :) How many times have you started a video in your timeline, for instance on your phone, just because you were trying to scroll? Take that into account when checking these stats. But it is nice to know the reach of a video.

People

There is one tab remaining: People. Facebook shows you some stats here about gender and age of three groups of people:

  1. Your fans
  2. People Reached
  3. People Engaged

It’s a nice overview:

Facebook Page Insights: Age en Gender stats in a graph

This could lead to the conclusion that it would be alright to use more popular language or tone on Facebook, for instance. The majority of likes comes from Men, 18-34 yo (70%). You should really check the other tabs here as well. The second tab tells a different story:

Facebook Page Insights: Age & Gender of people reached in a graph

The main group here is Men, 18-44 yo and a number of women as well. FYI, the third group of people that actually engaged roughly aligns with this second graph. It shows you should really check all stats before jumping to a conclusion.

Next to age and gender, this section also shows country, city and language. Keep in mind that age and gender are found in our personal profiles, but country and city are derived from our IP addresses (might not be 100% accurate). Language is based upon the language settings you use for Facebook. Mine are set to English, but I’m actually Dutch. Check your settings here.

Final thought: 100 likes

In this post, I tried to go over all the things Facebook Page Insights can tell you. There is one more thing: competitor information. If your Facebook Page reaches the 100 likes milestone (as Facebook calls this), you will be able to add competitor pages to your Facebook Page Insights as well:

Facebook Page Insights: Competitor stats overview

You can see details on their top posts, for instance, and things like number of likes and posts in that week. It’s always interesting to see what works for them, right?

Yes, they will get a notification that someone is watching their page, but not who watches it. So feel free to check the competition :)

Let me know if you have any remarks or other valuable additions about Facebook Page Insights!

Dictionary

  • Post Reach: the number of people who have seen your post in the last 7 days
  • Total Reach: the number of people that have seen any content related to your page (including ads, for instance) in the last 7 days
  • Engagement: the number of people that “clicked, liked, commented on or shared” your Facebook post in the last 7 days. Engagement rate is the percentage of your viewers that engaged
  • Post Clicks: total for the engagement actions
  • Page Likes: total number of unique people liking your page
  • Fans: equals likes
  • Impression: a single view of your post shown in a news feed / timeline