Just recently, a friend of mine asked me to have a quick peek at his website, as he felt some of his keywords didn’t perform as well as before. Some other websites outranked him in Google, and he wondered why. In such a case, it often pays to do a quick competitive analysis. In most cases, it’s not necessarily your site that’s performing worse; it’s other sites doing better. Now I know he’s all about content optimization and uses our plugin. First, I checked the configuration of the Yoast SEO Premium plugin, but all seemed to be in order. What else could have happened?

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If you want to do a competitive analysis to optimize your SEO efforts, there’s actually quite a lot you can do yourself, without having to hire an expensive SEO consultant. Let me take you through the steps!

Step 1: Define your keywords

It’s very important to use the right keywords in a competitive analysis. If you insist on using your, possibly branded, company outing as one of the main keywords, you might not even have any competition, let alone any decent organic traffic to your website. An example: if you are offering ‘holiday homes’, but insist on using the keyword ‘vacation cottage’, you are selling yourself short. Match the words your customers use.

Proper keyword research will be of help, not just for this competitive analysis, but for the entire SEO optimization of your website, so please put some effort in it.

Step 2: Analyze these keywords

Once you have defined the keywords you’d like to check against your competitors, the next step is obvious: do a search for these keywords. See who your competitors are by writing down who ranks higher than you.

Be realistic

If you are on page two in Google and want to do a competitive analysis with the number one, there is probably a lot to gain. But you should probably accept the fact that your rankings will go up step by step, and that the high ranking websites, depending on the keywords, might have a higher marketing budget than you to back their ranking strategies. It could be the main reason they rank so high. Don’t give up; our mission is ‘SEO for everyone‘ for a reason. Climb to higher rankings step by step and try to increase your marketing budget along the way.

Check the keywords and make them long-tail or add local keywords (city name, region name) to them, if needed. Do a thorough analysis. Google Trends will tell you what keywords have more traffic in the target markets for your business, and (free/paid) tools like Ahrefs.com and Searchmetrics.com will give you even more keyword insights.

Climbing up in rankings a (few) step(s) at a time

Sometimes, you can achieve a big improvement in your rankings. But if your website is ranking 6, it’s easier to climb to five or four first and then target the top three. Again, that top three probably has the marketing budget to go all out, where your immediate neighbors in rankings are struggling like you. Beat them first; it’s easier. Having said that: if you have the opportunity to dethrone number 1, 2, or 3, of course, go ahead and do so.

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Step 3: Check technical differences

You’ll need to check a number of things to determine on which aspects your competition is ahead of you. The next step of your competitive analysis, after listing the keywords you’d like to perform this analysis for, is to see if there are any technical differences.

Site speed

There are so many ways to check your site speed, which we have mentioned quite often already, like Pingdom and Google’s speed tools. No need for me to explain all that all over again. But, in a competitive analysis, speed insights will tell you if there is a huge difference between you and your main competitors in terms of serving the website and the user experience difference that goes with that. The faster the site, the happier the visitor, and the happier the search engine.


Https and SLL are about serving a secure website to your visitor. It’s becoming the default and for a good reason. Serving a secure website is about delivering the best user experience and gaining trust from your future customers. It is only logical to rank a secure website over a non-secure one. Again, there are multiple ways to check SLL/https in a competitive analysis. A nice overview is given by Builtwith.com, which gives you a ton of technical information, including SSL certificate, etc. You can obviously check your browser’s address bar for this as well, but Builtwith could give you some more insights while going over all other details. Like what CMS your competitor uses (and if he/she upgraded his/her WordPress install and you didn’t?).

Mobile site

Mobile-first. Mobile parity. Mobile UX. It’s all about mobile these days. It makes sense, as most of today’s website traffic is from mobile devices, exceptions aside.

A good mobile website is about getting your visitor to the right page as soon as possible. This has to do with speed, with deciding about top tasks on your website and with a clear and pleasant, branded design. Go check the websites of your competitors and see where they are clearly outperforming you. Test this, using for instance:

Step 4: Find content opportunities

Although technical optimizations are crucial, the quick wins will probably be in the field of content. What have you written about your company and products, and what did your competitor publish on their website?

Click all menu items

What are the main pages, what is your competitor trying to sell? And how did he/she manage to rank above you? See how focused their menu is and what pages they link to from there. We’ve found that placing ourselves in the mindset of our visitor pays off much more than writing about all the amazing SEO stuff we managed to add to our plugins, or all the SEO knowledge we share in our courses. What’s the end goal of all that SEO? It’s serving your website better to Google, which will lead to better rankings. You might not care about what schema.org does, or what XML sitemaps are, but if they benefit your business goals, you probably want to add them to your website.

See if your competitor tells a better story than you. And improve your story. The main menu of your website should be targeted at your visitor, not as much at explaining all the awesome things you came up with.

Category pages or product pages

If you have a shop, it could be interesting to do a competitive analysis of your competitor’s shop structure. Is he or she trying to persuade the customer on a product page, or already on category pages? In a market where there are a gazillion products, ranking in each and every niche is tough! It’s probably better to optimize most of your category pages. Write appealing, quality content, make these pages cornerstone and try to rank a lot of ’em. Here’s more on optimizing that category page of your online shop.

Your competitive analysis will tell you which of these pages are optimized by your main competitors. Optimize yours accordingly and, obviously, better.


A sitemap can show you the site structure of your competitor, be it via an HTML sitemap or XML sitemap. It can tell you, for instance, if he or she is targeting certain long-tail keywords via the slugs of the pages, and a few clicks to their pages will tell you how their internal linking is done.

You can find that sitemap on most sites at example.com/sitemap.xml or example.com/sitemap_index.xml or at example.com/sitemap. Sometimes a website simply doesn’t have that sitemap, but tools like Screaming Frog and Xenu might help you out. Crawl the site and order by URL.


The main question here is: do you have a blog? A blog makes for dynamic content, keeps your site current and, if you post regularly, Google will find all kinds of interesting, recent ‘Last Updated’ dates. If you don’t have a blog, and your competitor has and ranks better, get a blog. Your competitor has probably woven that blog into their content strategy.

Step 5: Compare UX

Great UX makes for better time-on-site, more pageviews, and a lower bounce rate. I’m not going into this too much here, as I think in a competitive analysis you should focus on other things first, but I wanted to highlight two things: call-to-action and contact.

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A great call-to-action helps any page. Regardless of whether it’s to drive sales or engagement, every page needs a proper call-to-action. Simply go over some of your competitor’s pages and see how they went about this. See if you can grab some ideas of this and improve your own call-to-action. Oh, and remove that slider and/or video background. That’s not a call-to-action. That’s a call to no action.

Contact page & address details

Your contact page and your address details could be the end goal of a visit to your page. If so, check how the competition created that page. Did they add structured data, for instance? Is there a contact form? Did they make it easier to find these details than you did? Adjust accordingly, if comparing this sparks some great ideas.

Step 6: Perform a backlink analysis

Last but not least: if all seems reasonably the same, and there is no logical way to explain why your competitor outranks you, it just might be that the other website has a great deal more relevant links than you do. Or simply better ones. You’d have to check Ahrefs.com, Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer or, for instance, Searchmetrics for this.

Follow-up on your competitive analysis!

At this point, you know the main differences between your competitor’s site and your site. This is the moment where you start prioritizing optimizations and get to work. First, take care of low-hanging fruit, and fix things that are easily fixed asap. Next, determine what issues might have the biggest impact on your rankings, and solve these as well. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you will have no problem with this. I’d go for any speed and content issues first, and try to get some more backlinks in the process.

If you can’t solve any of these issues, feel free to reach out to any of our partners. They can probably help you out, or perform an even more thorough competitive analysis for you!

Read more: ‘3 SEO quick wins to implement right now’ »

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Do you have your own website or maintain the website of the company you work for? Of course, to do this right, you need to keep a keen eye on the performance of your website. Google offers several tools to collect and analyze data of your website. You probably have heard of Google Analytics and Google Search Console before. These tools are free to use for everyone maintaining a website and can give you very valuable insights about your website. 

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In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the new Google Search Console. However, since not all features are included in the new version yet, we first tell about the features in the new version. After that, we’ll switch back to the old version. Of course, we’ll update this post when more features are migrated. 

Why everyone with a website should use Google Search Console

Google Search Console has been created to easily track the performance of your website. You can get valuable insights out of your Google Search Console account which means that you can see what part of your website needs work. This can be a technical part of your website, such as an increasing number of crawl errors that needs to be fixed. This can also be giving a specific keyword more attention because the rankings or impressions are decreasing.

Besides seeing this kind of data, you’ll get mail notifications when new errors are noticed by Google Search Console. Because of these notifications, you’re quickly aware of issues you need to fix.

Setting up an account

To start using Google Search Console, you’ll need to create an account. Within the new Google Search Console, you can click on ‘add a new property’ in the top bar:

However, the actual function of adding a property isn’t included in the new Google Search Console yet. That’s why GSC automatically switches back to the old version where you can add your website:

Clicking on the ‘Add a property’ button, you can insert the website you want to add. Make sure you add the right URL, so with ‘https’ if you have an https website and with or without ‘www’. For collecting the right data, it’s important to add the right version:

When you’ve added a website, you need to verify that you’re the owner. There are several options to verify your ownership. For WordPress users who use Yoast SEO we recommend using the HTML tag within the ‘Alternate methods’:

You can easily copy this code and paste it into the ‘Webmaster tools’ tab within the Yoast SEO plugin:

After saving this, you can return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘Verify’ button to confirm. If everything is ok, you’ll get a success message and GSC will start collecting data for your website. 

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Features in the new version of Google Search Console

Now you’ve set up your account what would be the next step? We don’t think it’s necessary to look into your Google Search Console data each day. Because of the email notifications, you’ll always be aware of errors right away. Below, we’ll explain more about all features. We’ll start with the new version of Google Search Console and we’ll end with the features which aren’t migrated yet. Sometimes you’ll need to switch between the new and the old version of GSC.


Within the performance tab, you can see what pages and what keywords your website ranks for in Google. In the old version of GSC you could see the data of a maximum of the last 90 days but in the new version, it’s possible to see the data up to 16 months. Keep in mind that the data is available from the moment you set up your account.

If you check the performance tab regularly, you can quickly see what keywords or what pages need some more attention and optimization. So where to begin? Within the performance tab, you see a list of ‘queries’, ‘pages’, ‘countries’ or ‘devices’. Each of those sections can be sorted by the number of ‘clicks’, ‘impressions’, ‘average CTR’ or ‘average position’. We’ll explain each of them below:

1. Clicks

The amount of clicks tells you how often people clicked on your website in the search results of Google. This number can tell something about the performance of your page titles and meta descriptions: if just a few people click on your result, your result might not stand out in the search results. It could be helpful to check what other results are displayed around you to see what can be optimized for your snippet.

The position of the search result also has an impact on the number of clicks of course. If your page is in the top 3 of Google’s first result page it will automatically get more clicks than a page that ranks on the second page of the search results.

2. Impressions

The impressions tell you how often your website in general or how often a specific page is shown in the search results. For example, in the GSC account of our own website, Yoast SEO is one of the keywords our website ranks for. The number of impressions shown after this keyword shows how often our website is shown for that keyword in the search results of Google. You don’t know yet what page ranks for that keyword.

To see what pages might rank for the specific keyword, you can click on the line of the keyword. Doing this for the keyword [Yoast SEO], the keyword is added as a filter:

After that, you could navigate to the ‘Pages’ tab to see what pages exactly rank for this keyword. Are those pages the ones you’d want to rank for that keyword? If not, you might need to optimize the page you’d like to rank. Think of writing better content containing the keyword on that page, adding internal links from relevant pages or posts to the page, making the page load faster etc.

3. Average CTR

The CTR – Click-through rate – tells you what percentage of the people that have seen your website in de search results also clicked through to your website. You probably understand that higher rankings mostly also lead to higher click-through rates.

However, there are also things you can do yourself to increase the CTR. For example, you could rewrite your meta description and make it more appealing. When the description of your site stands out from the other results, more people will probably click on your result and your CTR will increase. Keep in mind that this will not have a big impact if you’re not ranking on the first page yet. You might need to try other things first to improve your ranking.

4. Average position

The last one in this list is the ‘Average position’. This tells you what the average ranking of a specific keyword or page was in the time period you’ve selected. Of course, this position isn’t always reliable since more and more people seem to get different search results. Google seems to understand better and better which results fit best for which visitor. However, this indicator still gives you an idea if the clicks, impressions and the average CTR are explainable.

Index coverage

A more technical but very valuable tab within Google Search Console is the ‘Index coverage’ tab. This section shows how many pages are in the index of Google since the last update, how many pages aren’t and what errors and warnings caused difficulties for Google indexing your pages properly.

We recommend checking this tab regularly to see what errors and warnings appear on your website. However, you also get notifications when Google has found new errors. When you get such a notification you can check the error in more detail here.

Errors that could appear in this section: a new URL that you’ve added is set to no-index, a redirect doesn’t seem to work correctly, Google ended up on a 404 error trying to index an URL. Clicking on the link, you can analyze the error more in depth to see what specific URLs are affected. When you’ve fixed the error you can mark it as fixed to make sure Google will test the URL again:


Below the ‘Index coverage’ you can find the ‘AMP’ tab. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages: lightning fast mobile pages. If you’ve set up AMP for your website you can check for errors in Google Search Console. Within this section you can see the valid AMP pages, the valid ones with warnings and errors:

Below the chart, the issues are listed. If you click on one of the issues you can see the affected URLs. Just as in the index section of GSC you can validate your fix if you’ve fixed an issue.

Job Postings

Job postings are new in Google Search Console. Within this tab, you’ll be able to list your job openings and to track their performance. If there are any errors, you’ll see them in here. It’s not the most important feature of GSC but it can be valuable for specific companies or websites.


An XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all important pages and posts on your website. We think every website would benefit from having one. Is our Yoast SEO plugin running on your website? Then you automatically have an XML sitemap. If not, we recommend creating one to make sure Google can find your most important pages and posts easily.

Within the XML sitemap tab of Google Search Console you can add your XML sitemap:

We recommend everyone adding their XML sitemap to GSC to make Google find your sitemap easily. In addition to that, you can quickly see if your sitemap gives errors or if some pages aren’t indexed, for instance. Checking this regularly, you’re sure Google can find and read your XML sitemap correctly.

Missing features in the new version of Google Search Console

As you might have noticed not all features are integrated yet into the new version of Google Search Console. Google explains that this could have 2 reasons: they may have found a better way of presenting the data or they’re still in the process of migrating the feature to the new version. As said before, we’ll update this post when there’s progress made in the migration.

The old version of GSC is still available for everyone. So, why should you switch back to the old version once in a while? We’ll list the features that are missing in the new version, but that seem valuable to keep an eye on, below.

Search appearance

From the ‘Search appearance‘ section of the old Google Search Console, we miss the following features in the new version: ‘Structured data‘, ‘Rich cards‘, ‘Data highlighter‘ and the ‘HTML improvements‘.

If you’ve added structured data to your website we recommend checking the structured data tab of the old version regularly. Here you’ll see if all structured data is recognized by Google and errors will be listed. If you’ve added structured data meant for rich cards, you can check for errors in the rich cards tab. The data highlighter can be used to markup your pages without having to code yourself. You can read more in-depth about Google Search Console and structured data here.

In the last missing feature of the search appearance tab, the HTML improvements, you can easily check, for instance, for duplicate titles or quite short titles which can be improved. These listings can be an easy pick: optimizing your titles and meta descriptions might increase your rankings and CTR.

Search traffic

An improved version of the ‘Search analytics‘ tab is included in the new version of GSC. However, all other features within this tab aren’t included yet. We’re talking about ‘Links to your site‘, ‘Internal links‘, ‘Manual actions‘, ‘International targeting‘ and ‘Mobile usability‘.

Within the links to your site section, you can see how many links from other sites are pointing to your website. Besides, you can see what websites link, how many links those websites contain to your site and lastly, what anchor texts are used most linking to your website. This can be valuable information because links still are very important for SEO.

Within the internal links section, you can check what pages of your website are most linked from other spots on your site. This list can be valuable to analyze regularly because you want your most important pages and posts to get most internal links. Doing this, you make sure Google understands as well what your cornerstones are.

The manual actions tab is the one you don’t want to see anything in. When your site gets hit by a Google penalty, you’ll get noticed in here. If your site is affected by a manual action, you’ll also get a noticed in your messages and by email.

The international targeting tab is important for websites who have pages in different languages and who target people in different countries or regions. When you’ve implemented hreflang to your website, you can check for errors within this section of GSC.

Lastly, the mobile usability tab within this section shows you usability issues with your mobile website or with specific mobile pages. Since mobile traffic is rising all over the world, we recommend checking this regularly. If your mobile site isn’t user-friendly, lots of visitors will leave it quickly. 

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Google Index

The index status is already migrated to the new version of GSC. There are 2 reports left in this section: ‘Blocked resources’ and ‘Remove URLs’. The blocked resources tab shows pages which Google couldn’t enter completely. It’s important to remove those blocking elements to make sure Google can ‘see’ your pages completely. In the remove URLs tab, you can add URLs that you want to remove from the search results temporarily.


In the crawl tab, you can find the sections ‘Crawl errors’, ‘Crawl stats’, ‘Fetch as Google’, ‘Robots.txt tester’, ‘Sitemaps’ and ‘URL parameters’. It seems that you can find some crawl errors in the new index coverage tag but if we look at our account, we don’t see all crawl errors in the new version. This means that it’s important to check your crawl errors still in the old version of GSC. When you’ve fixed a crawl error you can mark it as fixed. The crawl stats aren’t included yet so you can find those stats in the old version. The crawl stats tell you something about how many pages are crawled per day, how many kilobytes are downloaded per day and how many time was spent downloading a page. If one of the graphs seem to decrease, you know it’s time to do something about it.

The fetch as Google feature gives you the opportunity to see if Google can access a specific page correctly, how it exactly renders the page and if there are blocked resources on the page. You can test your pages both for desktop as for mobile to see the differences between those.

The robots.txt tester is made to add your robots.txt and to test if any errors or warnings seem to appear. You can also add specific URLs to check whether they’re blocked or not.

The sitemaps are already moved to the new version of GSC so it’s time for the last feature of the crawl tab: URL parameters. In the URL parameters section, you can add parameters for your website and ‘tell’ Google how they should be handled. If you want to use this, we recommend reading the guidelines carefully. Don’t just add some parameters to see what happens. This can cause serious problems with your site’s SEO.

Security issues

Last but not least: within the security issues tab you’ll get a notification when your website seems to have a security issue.

Do you already use Google Search Console for your website? If not, we definitely recommend creating an account so you can start collecting data of your website. Do you think something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment!

Read more: ‘How to make your site stand out in the search results’ »


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If you want to measure the success of your content SEO strategy, you first need to establish what your goals are. What’s the purpose of your content SEO strategy? Do you want higher rankings? More traffic?

In order to evaluate your Content SEO strategy, you should identify what success means to you! Once you’ve established your goals, you can measure the success of your content SEO strategy. In this post, I’ll help you define your goals and give you tips on exactly how to measure those goals and the success of your content SEO strategy. 

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What’s your ultimate goal?

What do you really want to achieve with your SEO strategy? Lots of people SAY that they want to rank higher in Google. But is that really what they ultimately want to achieve? Or do they want to attract more traffic from Google to their website? Perhaps, they actually want to sell more stuff. Or, to have more return visitors. These are all different goals and these goals require different metrics to evaluate.

Ranking higher in Google for a particular search term will probably lead to more traffic. But not necessarily. We used to rank really high on the term [Google Analytics]. Most of those people were just looking for Google Analytics when they typed in [Google Analytics] in the search bar though – that was their search intent. So although we were ranking sky-high on a major competitive search term like [Google Analytics], it didn’t bring us any traffic.

In most cases, people probably want more organic traffic instead of higher rankings. And, if you have an online shop, you probably want to make more money: you’d like to attract people to your website that have a larger intent to buy. Your content SEO strategy should focus on attracting those people to your website.

Set up a content SEO strategy that fits your goals

Once you’ve established your goals and know what you want to achieve with your content SEO strategy, you should come up with a strategy that actually fits your SEO goals. If you want articles to rank higher, you should update and improve your best articles. If you want to attract more traffic to your website, you should consider a long tail keyword strategy. And if your goal is to sell more items, you should think of ways to attract buyers to your website.

Read more: ‘What is search intent?’ »

How do you measure those goals?

Once you’ve established your ultimate goal and figured out your content SEO strategy, you’ll be able to measure it. If you really want to know whether your content SEO strategy was successful you need to measure at least twice. You need to know just how you were doing before your content SEO strategy kicked in and you need to know how you’re doing afterwards. Let’s look at various goals and ways to measure them.

Higher rankings

Check the positions of your articles. For which terms are you ranking pretty well and which articles need an SEO boost? Rewrite and write new content. Add links. Do your content SEO magic! After some time, you can check your rankings again. If your articles appear in higher positions than they did before you started your content SEO strategy, your rankings will have increased. To keep track of your rankings, you can use Google Search Console.

More traffic

If your goal is to attract more traffic to your website, you should focus on the number of unique visitors you get on a weekly or monthly basis. If the organic traffic – visitors that come to your site using the search engines – increases, your content SEO strategy is paying off. It means more people click on your snippet in the search engines. You can use Google Analytics to keep track of the visitors on your site.

More sales

Increasing the number of purchases on your site could also be the ultimate goal of your content SEO strategy. It’s hard to measure the direct effect of your content SEO strategy on your sales. A decent content SEO strategy will need some time to have an effect. Still, Google Analytics has a lot of options on just how to attribute value of sales to certain pages. If you want to dive into that, read Annelieke’s post on how to measure the success of a Black Friday sale.

Other goals

A content SEO strategy could have other goals as well. It could be aimed at making people stay longer on your website and read more articles. The time spent on site is the metric you need in that specific case. Perhaps you’d want people to come back to your website: measure the number of return visitors. A totally different goal of a content SEO strategy could be making sure people find the information they need on your website, so they don’t need to make a phone call to your call center anymore. In such a situation, you need to measure the number of received phone calls – before and after your content SEO strategy.

Always keep in mind when you’re measuring something like this: try not to change other variables – things that influence, for instance, the amount of calls you get – during your test period! Otherwise your data won’t be reliable, and you’re still in the dark about the effect of your content SEO strategy.


How you should measure the success of a content SEO strategy largely depends on the goal of that specific content SEO strategy. What do you want to achieve? Specify your goals, find the metrics you need, define a test period and determine whether your content SEO strategy was a success. Good luck!

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


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This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all green bullets can become an addiction, but it isn’t necessarily the best way of creating great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about the green bullets on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to get a feel for how to approach the bullets feedback.

1. I have some red and orange bullets, so I will never rank!

Generally, the more green bullets, the more SEO fit your text is, as we’ve told you in other posts on this site. But not every bullet has to be green. The bullets indicate strengths and weaknesses in your text. They can help you easily identify some elements you could improve on. Don’t take them as gospel. They are tools, not commandments.

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished. 

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2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. Research has shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: ‘Readability ranks!’ »

The post “Yoast SEO hates my writing style!” appeared first on Yoast.

In this article, I’d like to highlight the snippet preview in our Yoast SEO plugin. What is it, how does it work and what should you pay attention to? First of all, I have to point out that Google makes the final selection of content for your mention in the search result pages. No matter how much effort you put in optimizing your meta description, if Google feels that another snippet of your pages answers their visitor’s search query better, it will use that snippet instead of your meta description. Is that a problem, you think? I think it isn’t. It’s Google helping people understand your page better.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Let’s look at that snippet preview

You can find the snippet preview in the so-called meta box, right below the edit field in WordPress:

Yoast SEO's snippet preview - How to make your site stand out in search results

As you can see, the meta description needs optimizing and the title is perhaps a bit long. Now, where do we change all these things?

Your site’s title

If you want to make your site stand out in search results, this will always have to be optimized one page at a time. Branding should be consistent on all pages, by the way. Looking at a single search result, the page title is the thing that gets the most attention in the search result pages. It’s in the largest font, the blue color pops. It’s usually also the most consistent thing in there. Your titles look like this by default (due to settings in our plugin): ‘page title’ – ‘site name’. Now if that is something you’d like to change for this specific post, simply click ‘Edit snippet’ and you’ll get this screen:

Edit Yoast SEO snippet preview

As you can see, the template of the title is displayed here. %%page%% will give you the number of the page is you have spread the article over multiple pages, %%sep%% is the separator or divider you can pick in our plugin as well. If you want to adjust the title, you can do that here. For tips on how to set that title up, please read Crafting good titles for SEO.

Read more: ‘Titles and meta variables in Yoast SEO’ »

Meta descriptions

We have written quite a lot about that meta description. It’s the only ‘tool’, besides the title, that Google gives us to optimize our invitation to our website. In the meta description, you highlight what your page is about and why the user should visit it.

Note that the meta description is a suggestion for Google, as I mentioned earlier. If Google doesn’t use the meta description you enter or edit here; some reasons could apply:

  • Your meta description doesn’t match the search query of the user. If you optimize your meta description for a certain keyword, which differs from the query, Google might decide to pick some sentences that fit the query better instead. Again, that might be a good thing.
  • Your meta description is over-optimized for a certain keyword, or considered to be too focused on sales/spam. Sometimes you may manage to squeeze in an emoji or icon of some kind, most of the times Google prefers text. I think most users do, by the way. It allows for more characters if you leave the fluff out, so your sentences are easier to read.

The length of that meta description

Now let’s discuss the length of that meta description. At the moment, we stick to approximately 160 characters, but times they are a-changing. Just recently, Google mentioned longer meta descriptions. This means we can squeeze in a few extra lines of text. However, Google will display this in some cases, not all. It might be just the meta descriptions that Google creates for us.

Longer meta descriptions also means that the first result will get some more attention, which fits Google’s aim of showing you the best result right away. And, think along the lines of voice search as well. MOZ’s example of our meta description post aligns nicely with the voice search example Joost used here. It’s consistent this way. Not sure if that’s the thought behind it, but it came to mind.

At Yoast, we keep a keen eye on what’s going on here and if we find the logic behind this new length, or Google tells us, we will find a way to incorporate this in our plugin. For the time being: results are still perfectly fine in the current length!

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

Yoast SEO for WordPress training Info

Optimizing your slug

Last but not least, you can also alter your slug. That’s the post-related part of the URL for that post. In our snippet preview editor, you can change that slug. Remove some clutter, make sure there’s focus. If possible, add the preferred focus keyword in there. Google could change that slug into ‘breadcrumbs’ a lot of the times, by the way. But if your URL is in the results, it’s nice to have the focus keyword in bold there as well.

One more thing: site links

Last but not least: site links. Site links are the links that you sometimes find below your main mention:

Site links for Yoast

As you can see, it’s one mention, with multiple extra site links below it. Now, this isn’t in our plugin or snippet preview, since we as site owners can’t control or suggest these. Google even removed the option to demote any links here last year. So it’s out of our reach, to be honest. Just wanted to clarify that :)

In conclusion

That’s it. You can easily optimize your mention in the search result pages if you use the snippet preview, and editor, in our free and premium Yoast SEO plugin. It’s an easy, convenient way to present Google with a ready-to-use, optimized snippet for their search result pages. Now go and optimize :)

Keep reading: ‘The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO’ »

The post Yoast SEO: How to make your site stand out in search results appeared first on Yoast.

If you want to grow your audience, it could be a great strategy to focus on a different language. Creating content in a foreign language can be quite a challenge though. In this post, I’ll discuss three ways to create content in a foreign language. I’ll also share some useful tips on how to write in a language that’s not your mother tongue.

Multilingual keyword research

SEO copywriting always starts with keyword research. Creating copy in a foreign language makes no exception to that rule. Jesse, our academy lead, wrote an awesome post in which he explains that creating copy in a foreign language could have large implications for your SEO. If you’re going to aim your content at a new foreign audience, you need to find out what words they are using when they search in Google. You’ll have to get in the heads of your foreign audience.

Optimizing your site for multiple languages? You need our Multilingual SEO training! »

New: Multilingual SEO training Info

Take cultural differences into account

Next to using the words your audience uses, you’ll need to make sure that the content you create matches the local niche of your audience. If you’re a British company and you want to get started on the French market, you’ll encounter some cultural differences. If you are a British company and you want to get started in the Chinese market, you’ll come across some really big cultural differences. Being aware of cultural differences is important if you’re going to create content in a foreign language.

Do you want to learn how to make your international sites rank? Then get our Multilingual SEO training. The introductory price is $169 instead of $199 for just a few days. Go get it!

Three options to create content

After you’ve focused on your multilingual keyword research, and on the possible cultural differences, you’ll want to start creating content. There are three ways to create new content:


You can translate the content you already have on your original website in the language of your choice. You can do that yourself (provided that you have mastered the language) or you can outsource this. Translating is the cheapest way to create new content. That’s a huge plus for this strategy. However, it hardly leaves any room for the keyword research you’ve done, nor for possible cultural differences.

Write new content

The second strategy for creating content in a foreign language is by writing entirely new content. Again, you can do that yourself (provided that your writing skills in the new language are up to scratch) or you can outsource this. If you choose to outsource, I would advise you to give a detailed outline of what you want your article to say. Native writers are usually best at embedding an article in a local culture. They can use examples of current affairs in a specific country. That’ll make the copy appealing.


The third option for creating content in a new language is a combination of the two other strategies mentioned: transcreation. A blog post from your ‘old’ website will be the inspiration for a new article or blog post. However, keyword research and cultural differences are taken into account. The content will not be translated literally, but in the end, the articles will pretty much have the same message. This strategy is probably is the most efficient way of creating new content in a foreign language. You do not have to come up with all new ideas, but the local culture and the specific words of your audience are taken into account.

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

SEO copywriting training Info

Tips for writing in a foreign language

You can only write content yourself if your writing skills in the new language are up to scratch. Otherwise, you should outsource the writing. Writing in a language that’s not your mother tongue can be quite hard. I know from experience. So, what can you do to improve your writing?

Read a lot… and after that, read some more

The best thing you can do is to read a lot. Of course, you need to read texts in the language you want to master. Read blog posts, newspaper articles, novels. Your brain will recognize patterns of words and memorize phrases, sayings, figures of speech and preferred word order.

Practice and study

Reading will help you to passively use the language. Practising by actually writing stuff will improve your skills even further. Write, correct and write some more. It will also pay off to study the basic grammar and spelling rules before you start putting pen to paper. That’ll help you to avoid the most common mistakes.

Use a tool or a native speaker

There are lots of tools out there that’ll help you with grammar and spelling in a foreign language. I always use Grammarly to correct my English. Tools like this are helpful. Another way to get feedback on your writing is to ask a native speaker for feedback. Native speakers will also be able to correct spelling and grammar, and besides that, they could give valuable tips on style and sentence construction.


Adding a language to your website could very well open your site to a whole new audience. Creating content in a foreign language can be quite a challenge, though. If you want to create this content yourself, your writing skills in the foreign language should be rather good. In any case, you should always do keyword research in a foreign language and take into account any cultural differences there may exist.

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


The post How to create SEO-friendly copy in a foreign language appeared first on Yoast.

Have you ever done a fresh Yoast SEO for WordPress install on your WordPress website? Have you ever found yourself wondering what’s hidden in the general SEO section of Yoast SEO? In the SEO section, in the bottom half of the WordPress menu on the left of the page? Perhaps the better question would be: have you ever tried our Yoast SEO configuration wizard? Our wizard takes care of all the little things that you should configure. Things that you might forget in your eagerness to get started with your newly set up website.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Where can I find the Yoast SEO configuration wizard?

Of course, you want to jump right in and configure our plugin, using that Yoast SEO configuration wizard. Once you have installed our plugin, you’ll see a notification on your Yoast SEO dashboard:

The configuration wizard helps you to easily configure your site to have the optimal SEO settings.
We have detected that you have not finished this wizard yet, so we recommend you to start the configuration wizard to configure Yoast SEO.

There is a link in this message, leading you to a tab that’s located next to your SEO dashboard: “General”. You can set a number of things here, but you’ll also find a button that takes you to the Yoast SEO configuration wizard:

Where to find the Yoast SEO configuration wizard

The wizard

Once you’ve opened the wizard, we’ll guide you through the steps via a few questions. If you answer these, we’ll implement the right settings for your website, based specifically on your answers.

Step 1: Welcome to the Yoast SEO configuration Wizard

Let’s look at the first screen of the configuration wizard:
Yoast SEO configuration wizard: Welcome

You have two options here. You can start the wizard by clicking the purple button in the left box. This will continue the process as described below in this article.

The other option, on the right, will take you to our shop. Because we can do the configuration process for you, if you feel that there’s more to configure, and want to be sure it is done right for your particular site. We’ll check all the things in the wizard, but first, we will have a quick look at your website to see how you implemented things. And how we can optimize these settings for your specific business. Especially the technical side of things may feel challenging for the average site owner. This is where the configuration service is of great help. For the best result, you can also purchase our configuration package, which also includes our Yoast SEO Premium plugin, and the installation of that plugin.

For this post, let’s assume you want to use the Yoast SEO configuration wizard first.

Step 2: Is your site ready to be indexed?

The first question determines whether you want your site to be indexed or not. Perhaps you are working on a development site, on a staging server or just don’t want the public to see your site yet:
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

The reason we ask, is that one of the most important checks in our plugin determines whether Google can index your site or not. Google needs to be able to reach your website and index it unless you don’t want that. If you don’t want that, we merely need to know. You can set your preference for this in the second step of our wizard.

Step 3: What kind of site do you have?

In the next step, we will ask you about the type of site you have. It could be a blog or an online shop, but might as well be a news site or a portfolio.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

One of the reasons we ask this question is because it’s essential you take a moment and think about this. What is your site about? Let’s take yoast.com, for example. We have two different sections on our website yoast.com:

  • Our blogs: an SEO blog and a dev blog. In these blogs, we share knowledge about both SEO and software development in all its facets.
  • Our online shop. We run an online shop and you’ll find our premium plugins and online courses in there.

What makes this question hard for ourselves, is the fact that following our mission “SEO for everyone”, both are equally important. Sharing knowledge is our main goal. Making sure all companies large and small and all individuals rich and poor, wherever on this planet, can optimize their websites and have an equal chance to rank in the search result pages. We use our products to provide even more insights or to deliver our knowledge to you in a structured package. That is also the reason we charge prices for our software that fit well into the offers of most online agencies. Charging $5,000 for a website, and including a mere $89 for our Yoast SEO Premium plugin seems like a no-brainer. Especially since it just makes your work / the work of your client so much easier. But enough with the promotional talk.

Think for yourself what your answer to this question should be. That’ll make it easier to configure several features of our plugin and, in fact, of your website later on.

For us, as plugin developers, the information we get from this question is also useful for future improvements. For instance, it can help us to prioritize future additions to our plugin for specific types of sites.

Step 4: Is it you or your company?

For the right metadata, we ask you to choose between company and person here. Is your website about you, or the company you represent? If you are a person, we would like to include your name. If you are a company, please add the name and logo.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

This information will be included in the metadata of your website, with the goal to provide Google with the right information for their Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph is the block of information you see on the right-hand side of the search results, for instance when you do a company search for Sony or Apple. My search for “Apple” actually returned details for our local Apple premium reseller, with a sort of ‘footer’ about the global Apple company details.

To make sure you give Google proper suggestions for that Knowledge Graph, we have added this question.

Step 5: Tell us your social profiles

In addition to your name or company name, we also ask you to let us know which social profiles you have. Again, so we can provide Google with the right information for their Knowledge Graph. Google seems keen on delivering answers to their visitors right away, so you’d better make sure your information is on Google.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

With social being a part of the Knowledge Graph, and your website being linked on all your social profile pages, be sure to fill this out as completely as possible.

Step 6: To show or not show certain post types

The description in the image below is pretty clear: this is where you can set posts and pages to hidden or visible. Besides that, you can also choose to hide the Media post type.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

If you set your Media post type to ‘visible’, WordPress will generate separate pages for your images, and we will generate an XML sitemap for your images as well. Now, unless you have a very specific reason to generate these pages, we recommend setting this to ‘hidden’ instead. That way, most websites prevent the generation of a ton of pages that just contain an image and no further content. Google will spend time indexing all these pages, but they add little value to your content. Keep in mind that when an image is on your page, post, or a specific gallery, Google will find it anyway.

Step 7: How many people are publishing content on your site?

We absolutely want to know if your website has multiple authors. There’s a reason for that: when your site only has one author, WordPress will still generate author pages. But if you write all the content on your blog yourself, your blog page will show the exact same collection of posts as your author page. And that, indeed, is duplicate content.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

We call something duplicate content when the majority of a page is the same as the content on another page. Google will notice this, get confused, won’t know what page to rank first, and might decide to rank both a bit less. You obviously want to prevent that from happening. As we can guide you in this case, we added this check to our Yoast SEO configuration wizard.

Step 8: Google Search Console integration

There is a ton of information about your website in Google Search Console. We have written many posts about webmaster tools like Google Search Console, but did you know we also have an integration for it in our plugin? It connects your website to Google Search Console and allows you to keep a keen eye on your 404 Not Found errors. In our Yoast SEO Premium plugin, we’ll even guide you in preventing these 404 errors by helping you change them to for instance a 301 (so redirect the page to another page), or a 410 status code (which tells Google the page is gone forever).
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

In this step of the Yoast SEO configuration wizard, we guide you in connecting Google Search Console to our plugin. After that, we’ll start showing you your 404s so you can monitor and fix them!

Step 9: Optimizing your page title

At the title settings step in the wizard, we ask you to think about your branding. The website name you enter here is the name that our default page title template will use to put at the end of each page title. The default page title template looks like this:
%%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%

The last part of that template is %%sitename%% and that’s what you fill out here. Be sure to add it, but keep it short, so the focus will be on the page or post title. It’s nice to have some of your branding in here so people will recognize your pages in the search result pages. If they already know you and your site, they’re more likely to click on one of your links.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

The third part of the page template is %%sep%%, which stands for separator. A page title that follows our template can be “Some title of a post – Yoast”. The hyphen in there is the separator you can set at this step in the Yoast SEO configuration wizard. Using another separator than the average person might make you stand out from your competitors in the search result pages. But beside that, you can also pick the smallest separator, which could mean you can squeeze in another character or two.

Read more: ‘Titles and meta variables in Yoast SEO’ »

Step 10: Awesome tips and new products in your inbox

As SEO is an ongoing process, our goal is to keep you up-to-date on any changes in Google’s search result pages or Google’s algorithm. We do that by posting on our SEO blog, but also with our newsletter. In the newsletter, we highlight new developments in search, in WordPress and in our company – if relevant.
Yoast SEO configuration wizard

Simply insert your email address, and we’ll keep you in the loop on all things SEO!

Step 11: Upsell: buy our Premium plugin

Call it whatever you want (upsell, spam, useful information), but we have to tell you about our premium plugin in our configuration. Because we deliver incredibly useful SEO extras with that premium plugin, for a reasonable price. To name but a few:

  • What about a redirect manager? We’ll not only show you your 404s, but will also make it very easy to redirect, and thereby fix ’em.
  • An internal linking tool that will help you optimize your site structure to the max. Link suggestions and an easy way to copy these into your text. Optimize your cornerstone content even further.
  • Social previews, so you’ll know exactly what your website will show on Facebook and Twitter, and the option to tweak that.
  • A year of updates for all premium features, so your entire plugin will always be 100% up-to-date.
  • Email support for as long as you have Premium. This means you can email our 24/7 support team with any questions you have about the plugin.

Yoast SEO configuration wizard

Next to that, we offer some hands-on online courses to improve your SEO game even more. Be sure to check them out; you can always decide later if they add value for you, right? We think they do :)

Step 12: Even more free information about the plugin: then you’re ready to get started!

All the steps above have one goal: prepare you and your website for SEO. These steps are focused on the general settings of our plugin.

If you have used our plugin before, you’ll know it also provides a thorough SEO analysis in real time, while you write your posts or pages. On the page/post edit screen, where you write your content, you’ll find a so-called meta box with our SEO and readability analysis. For more insights on both, we finish our Yoast SEO configuration wizard with a helpful video, which tells you more about that specific part of the plugin. Be sure to watch that video!
Yoast SEO configuration wizard: finished

The configuration wizard makes things easier for all of us

All in all, I trust this article gives you a pretty good insight in why you should give our Yoast SEO configuration wizard a spin. And why we ask what we ask in there!

And again, if you want us to configure the plugin for you, feel free to use our Yoast SEO configuration service instead.

Keep reading: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

The post The Yoast SEO Configuration Wizard appeared first on Yoast.

A few weeks ago, I gave a lightning talk at WordCamp Nijmegen (my hometown in the Netherlands) on how to avoid common SEO mistakes. And this seemed a great topic to write a post about as well, so here it is! I’ll describe the most pressing SEO problems I find on sites I work on as an SEO consultant. Of course, I’ll also explain how to avoid them!

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

It’s important to start with Yoast’s vision on SEO, namely holistic SEO. This means that we don’t just focus on the technical aspects of your site, but also see content and User eXperience (UX) as an important part of SEO. Therefore, the tips outlined in the article below will not only cover the strict definition of SEO, but also include a wide range of other aspects that site owners should pay attention to as well.

#1: Forgetting that faster is better

The first thing I’d like to touch on is site speed. The faster your site, the more Google will favor it. There’s a very useful tool from Google itself to check your site speed: Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool gives you an overview of what aspects need improvement to boost the speed of a particular page.

One of the recommendations I frequently give as an SEO consultant is to optimize your images. A lot of websites have images that are relatively large, which take a lot of time to load. Resizing your images can speed up the loading time. If you have a WordPress site, this can easily be done by installing a plugin that does that for you.

Read more: ‘Image SEO’ »

Another tip that I frequently give people is to enable browser caching and gzip compression. Both of them will speed up your entire site. The first makes your site faster to load for returning visitors and the latter compresses static files, which makes them faster to load into your browser.

In case of a WordPress install, I also recommend taking a good look at the plugins that are activated. Are you actually using all of them? Perhaps some of them can be replaced by another plugin that combines those functions? The best advice I can give you on this topic is that less is more. The fewer plugins that are activated, the faster your WordPress installment can be loaded.

#2: Trying to rank for the wrong keywords

If you want to rank in Google you have to make sure that you’re using the right keywords for every page. One of the biggest mistakes I frequently encounter is that site owners are optimizing for too generic keywords. If you are a relatively small business that wants to rank for ‘rental car’, you’re aiming too high. You should try to come up with something more specific than that. Otherwise, you’re competing with all the car rental companies all over the world, which is impossible to do! So at least make sure you add the area in which your company is located to the keyword. This will make the keyword more long tail, as we call it.

The longer and more specific the keywords are, the higher your chances of ranking for this keyword. Of course, this also means that the search volume for this keyword decreases, but you can compensate for this by optimizing a lot of pages on your site for different long tail keywords. Your site will eventually gain more traffic for all of these keywords combined, than it ever would if you optimized for one main keyword, for which you could never rank page 1 in Google.

#3:  Failing to invite people to visit your site

Metadata is what appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) when a website comes up for certain queries. It includes the title of the page and its meta description. The page title is still one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so you have to make sure it’s optimized correctly for every page. This means adding the relevant keyword to each particular page and making sure that your page title isn’t too long. If your page title is too long (currently 400 to 600 pixels), it will get cut off in Google. You don’t want potential visitors to be unable to read the full title in the SERPs.

The meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does play an important part in optimizing your Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR gives some insight into how likely potential visitors are to actually click on your site in the SERPs. If you optimize your meta descriptions with clear and attractive extracts on what potential visitors can find on your site, it becomes easier for them to see if the information they’re looking for is on that page. The more likely potential visitors are to think your site will provide an answer to their search query, the more traffic a page will gain.

#4: Neglecting to write awesome content

A lot is already written on this blog about writing awesome content, but I still frequently come across sites that do a poor job in writing content. It’s important to make sure every page of your site has decent content, at least 300 words. You can’t expect Google to see you as an expert on a certain topic when you have only written two sentences about it. This indicates to Google that your page probably isn’t the best result to match the search query.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to think of Google as your audience. You write for your visitors and not for Google. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and provide the best answers possible. Therefore, writing quality content for your audience is also something that will immediately lead to Google’s approval.

Writing quality content means writing original content. This is also important to avoid duplicate content with other sites. And it means that sites have to stop stuffing keywords into their texts. Your text has to be easy to read for your visitor. Obviously, your visitor doesn’t benefit from a keyword stuffed text, because this decreases the readability.

#5: No call to action for your visitors

Once visitors are on your site, an important goal is to keep them on your site. You don’t want your visitors immediately bouncing back to Google once they have read something on your site. This is why you need to encourage visitors to click through your site. The best way to do this is to create a call-to-action (CTA), which usually is a button that offers an action to your visitor. This can be, for instance, a ‘buy’ button on a product page, or a ‘sign up’ button for the newsletters.

Make sure that every page has one call-to-action, so the goal of the page is clear. If you add multiple buttons, you lose the focus of the page and your visitors won’t get where you want them to go. So think about what the right goal is for every page. Also, make sure that the CTA stands out from your design, so it’s clearly visible and cannot be missed. If the button blends into the design of your page too much, it will attract fewer clicks than when it stands out. So don’t be afraid to use a distinct color!

Keep reading: ‘Calling to the next action’ »

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training Info

#6: Not thinking ahead: The future is mobile

Since Google has announced that next year they will switch to mobile indexing first, you should be busy preparing your site for this change. ‘Mobile indexing first’ means that Google will look at the mobile version of your site to decide how high you should rank. So if the desktop version of your site is set up brilliantly, but your mobile site isn’t responsive at all, you have a lot of work to do if you don’t want to suffer a rank drop over next year.

A great way to test if your site is at least mobile friendly is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test. This gives you an indication if Google thinks your site is fit for displaying on mobile devices. But don’t stop after checking this. The best advice I can give you is to visit your site on your mobile phone. Browse your own site for a while and try to click on every button, image and link to see what happens. Is everything working as expected? Can you actually purchase something on your site while using your mobile phone? Are all pages displayed correctly? You will see that most sites have some work to do this fall.

Read on: ‘Mobile SEO: the Ultimate Guide’ »

In short

As SEO consultant I’ve seen many sites making the same mistakes. Learn from the ones I listed in this post: focus on site speed, write great content and optimize for the right keywords. If you make sure people want to visit your site, have great calls-to-action and prepare for mobile, you’re already on your way to a well-optimized website, the holistic way!

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

The post How to avoid common SEO mistakes appeared first on Yoast.

Ranking in the search engines can be hard. Especially if the competition in your niche is high. As you probably know, you should start with doing your keyword research: getting inside the heads of your audience, knowing exactly what words they use and what they are searching for. But then what? How do you choose which keywords to optimize for? Should you focus on long tail keywords, or go straight for the most competitive head terms? In this post, I’ll help you to determine your strategy for deciding which keywords you want to optimize your content for.

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

SEO copywriting training Info

Competition is key

Whether you should go after long tail keywords, which are specific and consist of multiple words, or after head terms largely depends on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you’ll have a hard time ranking on competitive head terms. If you have little competition, you’ll even be able to rank for head terms. It sounds so very easy!

In our SEO copywriting course, our students do a bit of keyword research as an assignment. We ask them to estimate their chances to rank in the search engines. People aren’t very good in assessing their chances to rank. Most people largely overestimate their chances and focus on head terms that won’t attract much traffic to their site.

So how do you determine your competition? What should you be looking for? There are two strategies:

  • Google and analyze your competition
  • Try, evaluate and try again.

I will discuss both strategies in more detail below.

Google and analyze your competition

Google the keywords that came out of your keyword research. Start with your most ‘head’ term. The most general one. Check out the search engine result page (SERP). These are the websites you’ll be competing against once you optimize your content for such a keyword. To check whether or not you’ll be able to compete with the websites on that result page, analyze the following things:

  • Are the websites professional websites? Are they company websites? Ask yourself whether or not you are an ‘equal’ to these companies. Does your website belong among these sites? Is your company of similar size and does it have as much influence in your niche?
  • Does the SERP show well-known brands? It’s harder to rank when you’re competing against sites with strong brand-names. If brands are known from TV or radio commercials, your chances to rank will become even smaller.
  • What about the content of these websites? Is the content well written and well optimized? How long are the articles on the sites? If your competition has poor content, you’ll have a larger chance to outrank them!
  • Are there any ads in Google? And how much is the pay-per-click in Google adwords? Search terms that have a high pay-per-click are usually also harder to rank for in the organic results.

Read more: ‘Keyword Research Tools’ »

One simple question

It all boils down to a single question: how does my website hold up, compared to the websites in the SERPs? Are you of equal size and marketing budget: go ahead and focus on those head terms. If not: try a more long tail keyword.

The next step is to do the same analysis with a keyword that’s slightly more long tail. Longer and more specific search terms will generate less traffic, but ranking on those terms will be much easier. Focusing on a whole bunch of long tail keywords combined could very well attract a lot of traffic. Once you’ve managed to rank for those long tail keywords, aiming for more head terms will become a bit easier.

Try, evaluate and try again

Once you’ve done a thorough analysis of your chances to rank on a specific term, the next step is to write an amazing article and optimize it accordingly. And hit publish. Make sure you’ll attract some nice backlinks. And wait a little while. Check out your rankings. Does your article pop up? Did it hit the first page of Google’s SERPs? Or is it hidden away on page 2 or 3? Make sure to evaluate your articles in the SERPs. Google the terms you’ve optimized your articles for. Check whether or not your SEO is paying off!

If you’re not able to rank on the first page, try to write another article, focused on a (even) more long tail keyword. Make it a little bit more specific, more niche. And see how that goes. Evaluate again. Continue this process until you hit that first page of the SERPs!


Figuring out which keywords you should focus on to get the most traffic to your site can be rather daunting. For many people, it’s hard to assess their chances to rank in the search engines. And even with the tips in this article, it’ll remain hard. But if you get it right, it’ll definitely pay off! So, after thoroughly analyzing your competition, start testing. Write an article and see how it ranks. After evaluating your rankings, adapt your strategy. You’ll get there eventually. If you want some help with your keyword research strategy, check out our SEO copywriting course. And if you really want to take your keyword research to the next level, consider doing Roy Huiskes’ keyword research workshop at YoastCon!

Keep reading: ‘Keyword Research: the Ultimate Guide’ »

The post How to choose keywords that’ll attract traffic appeared first on Yoast.

Do you want to make sure your site outranks your competition? Then you should learn the ins and outs of SEO and become an SEO expert yourself. Setting up a successful SEO strategy can be quite hard. Investing in your skills will definitely pay off though. After all, you yourself are the very best expert on your brand, your site, and your niche. So, how do you become an SEO expert?

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Dive into SEO

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Start reading. A lot. All the information you need is out there. We recommend reading our Yoast.com blog of course ;-). But also check out Moz and Search Engine Land. These are must reads if you want to become an SEO expert. Also, make sure to follow these SEO specialists on Twitter. There are many interesting SEO discussions on Twitter. Try to follow both companies, as well as individual SEOs to gain different perspectives. And join some Facebook groups on SEO. That’ll give you lots of information too.

If you want to know more about what Google is up to, you should read SEO by the Sea. Bill Slawski checks out all the software patents of Google. This is a great tactic to learn more about the mysteries of the Google algorithm. Search Engine Roundtable is another great source if you want to know the ins and outs of what Google is up to. Search Engine Roundtable writes about every single test Google does. You won’t miss a thing!

Too daunting? Check out a training

Learning SEO by reading all these (awesome) SEO blogs can be rather difficult and time-consuming. The information is mostly written for people who already know quite a lot about SEO. At Yoast, we also offer SEO basics, posts written specifically for people who just started out in SEO. Moz and Search Engine Land also have guides for people who just started out.

For those of you who want to learn SEO with a bit more help, Yoast developed several online SEO courses. We have courses that teach you:

We’ll teach you how to tackle different aspects of SEO, step by step with lots of training videos, reading material and many challenging questions.

Two types of SEO experts

There are basically two types of SEO experts. The developers who learned marketing and the marketers that learned code. SEO has both technical aspects and marketing aspects. The technical aspects have to do with the indexing and crawlability of your website. The marketing aspects include content, site structure, and linking structure.

In order to be an all-around SEO expert, you’ll need to know both sides of SEO. And these two sides are rather different. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to most developers. That’s a whole new ball game. And, for some marketers, the technical stuff can be terrifying. But don’t despair: our technical SEO course and our structured data training are great tools to get your technical skills up to scratch.

In short

Becoming an expert at something is never easy. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll be well on your way to SEO expertise. As we have seen, there are many ways to master SEO, and in the end, it’ll pay off. So, think about the best way for you to learn SEO, and go for it!

Read more: ‘Yoast Must Reads’ »

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