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.

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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! »

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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’ »

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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.

Learn how to write engaging copy and how to organize it well on your site: Combine our SEO copywriting and Site structure training. »

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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.

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:

Translate

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.

Transcreate

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 »

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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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!

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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 »

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#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’ »

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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 »

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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!

Conclusion

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’ »

The post How to become an SEO expert appeared first on Yoast.

In the latest release of Yoast SEO, we’ve added a text link counter. It consists of two counters, the first counts the number of internal text links you’ve put in your post. And the other counter counts the number of internal links to a post. These counters can be a huge help in improving the structure of your site. I’ve already explained why you should use the text link counter. Here, I’ll show you how to use our new text link counter.

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Where do I find the text link counter?

From now on, checking the number of internal links in a post and the number of links to a certain post is very easy. You can find the two counters in your post overview:yoast seo 5.0 text link counter
Look a bit closer:

text links counter

This functionality is very actionable. If you want to improve your site structure and your SEO, the text link counter will help you do that. You can go through your post with few links and improve your site’s structure step by step. We’re already thinking of ways to make this experience even smoother.

Find and resolve: ‘Orphaned articles’

Some articles don’t get many links from other posts; we often refer to them as ‘orphaned articles.’ These pages are hard to find, both by Google as well as the user. With the help of our text link counter, these articles are easy to detect. If you want to check which articles don’t receive many links, you can sort the articles by number in the second link counter column. Articles with 0 posts linking to them, will appear on top of the list.

The next step is to open those posts or pages with few links. Is it a page you don’t find useful anymore? Just delete and redirect it to another relevant page. If you do think it’s still a valid page on your site, figure out which other posts could link to it. Our internal linking tool (only for Yoast SEO premium) could help you to figure out which posts are linking candidates. Go to those similar post and insert links from these posts to your ‘orphaned’ post. That strategy could very well result in a small boost in your rankings.

Improve site structure by adding links

The other counter – the first column – counts the number of text links to other posts and pages on your website. You’ll want your post to link to other posts and pages with similar content, as it helps your readers to figure out other posts to read. If you link to similar content, the time people spend on your website will go up.

To find blog posts with few links to other posts, order the posts by the number of links. The posts with the fewest links will appear on top of your list. Adding links is incredibly easy with our internal linking tool. In our internal linking tool, we’ll suggest which post to link to based on similar content. You can add the suggestions, and you’re ready to go to the next blog post with few links.

Improve those cornerstone articles

An excellent way to use the text link counter is to use it for the cornerstone content articles. These are your most important articles. You’ll need to have your other posts linking to these particular relevant posts. To check whether you’re linking sufficiently to these cornerstones, you should select your cornerstone articles in your post overview. You can indicate which posts are your cornerstones in the Yoast SEO meta box (just beneath the snippet preview).  If one of your cornerstones has very few links, you’ll have work to do! Our internal linking tool will help you to figure out which articles to start linking to.

Conclusion on the text link counter

The new text link counter is a beneficial tool to improve your site’s structure actively. It’ll show you which posts need linking. If you combine this text link counter with our internal linking tool and the cornerstone content check, you’ll be able to bring your site’s structure to the next level. That will instantly increase the time people spend on your page and eventually will result in higher rankings in Google.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Text without headings is terrible to read. Headings and subheadings are the most important anchor points a reader has in the text. People tend to read those more carefully and use headings to determine what a text is about. This means headings are essential to help people figure out whether they want to read a text. So, how do you use headings properly on your site? And are they of any importance for SEO? I’ll tell you all about that here. 

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Headings and text structure

Headings are anchors that guide readers through a text. People tend to read those headings carefully. Headings should therefore indicate what a paragraph is about, otherwise people won’t know what to expect. Moreover, if they get lost in (poor) writing, looking back to the heading may help them to get back on track.

Reading from a screen is hard. People easily get distracted and loose track of the story you’re trying to tell in your blog posts. Headings will help people to stay on track, to grasp the message of your post.

For web copy, I’d strongly recommend to write headings that are informative to the reader. Some people like to tease their audience in the headings, trying to seduce them to read further. That can work beautifully. However, the main focus of headings should be on the content. And the main purpose of headings should be to make the text more readable.

Keep reading: ‘Why text structure is important for SEO’ »

Headings and SEO?

People like putting their focus keywords in headings and some believe it’ll directly result in higher rankings. I’m not sure about that. Still, your focus keyword should definitely be in a subheading. If you’re trying to rank for it, you’ll have to write about it. It only makes sense that you mention the main topic of a blog post in one or more headings. It shouldn’t feel unnatural or weird using your focus keyword though, then you’re probably trying too hard – or over optimizing.

Although not a major ranking factor, headings do affect SEO. That’s because headings are important to users. They help readers to figure out what a text is about. And if readers use headings to figure out what a text is about, Google will too.

Use of headings

Sometimes developers also talk about headings. They usually talk about <H1> and <H2>, <H3>, <H4>. Just to translate a little: H1 is the title of the page or the blog post, and you should only use it once. The other headings can be used multiple times, as long as it makes sense. It’s a hierarchical structure, so before you use H3, you should have used H2. But you can go back and use H2 after you’ve used H3. Here’s an example of a heading structure:

H1: Ballet shoes are awesome

H2: Why ballet shoes are awesome

H3: Ballet shoes are pink

H3: Ballet shoes are flexible

H3: Ballet shoes are cheap

H2: Where to buy your ballet shoes?

H3: Online stores

H3: In your hometown?

H2: Wrapping it up.

You can use H4, H5 and H6, if you want to, as long as you make sure to use H4 before H5 and H5 before H6, and so on. I usually stick to using H2 and H3 though.

Headings and accessibility

The heading structure is important for accessibility as well, especially for people who can’t read well from a screen. Because headings are in HTML, a screenreader can make an outline and read all the headings out loud.

By reading or listening to the headings online, visually impaired people can make their decision whether to start reading an article. In addition to that, screen readers offer shortcuts to jump from one heading to another, and this way, headings are used for navigation as well.

Don’t forget your headings!

Using headings well is helpful for your users, increases chances of people actually reading your article, improves accessibility and might even contribute to SEO. So add them in your copy, the right way!

Read on: ‘Headings and why you should use them’ »

Back in 2012, Twitter introduced a system called Twitter Cards which allows site owners to display enhanced tweets on their websites using a syntax very similar to that of OpenGraph. Thanks to this new system, Twitter can show nicer looking tweets, including ones containing media such as images, audio and video.

How does it work?

As mentioned in the introduction, Twitter Cards make use of a very similar syntax to that of OpenGraph. Twitter has some properties that are specific for their platform which you can see in the following snippet:

<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@yoast"/>
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@michielheijmans"/>

The twitter:card property is required and defines the type of card you want to show. You have four flavors here: summary, summary_large_image, app and player. What the difference is between all these different cards can be found in the documentation.

Both twitter:site and twitter:creator are optional and point to the Twitter account of the website publishing the content and the author.

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OpenGraph

When it comes to parsing URLs, images and descriptions, Twitter makes use of existing og: properties. You can overwrite these og: properties with Twitter specific ones, but most of the time this isn’t something you’d want. If your goal is to display completely different information on Twitter, then these tags allow you to override default behavior.

There’s one thing to take into account when using both the Twitter and OpenGraph options. Twitter uses name to specify the attribute whereas OpenGraph makes use of the property attribute. Take this into account if you plan on manually implementing Twitter Cards.

Implementing Twitter Cards

As with other meta tags, you need to add the Twitter tags in the <head> of your website and ensure that the values are set properly on a per-page basis. This can quickly becomes an unwieldy task for a blog, so we built a feature that generates the proper meta tags for you.

Twitter Card settings in Yoast SEO

Twitter Card input field in Yoast SEO

Want to change the look of the Twitter Card for a specific post or page? Just use the form on the Social tab. Here you can tweak specific properties to your liking.

Additionally, our Premium plugin contains Social Previews which display what the Twitter Card will eventually look like based on the current page or post:

twitter cards in yoast seo premium

Twitter Card: Preview your Twitter post with Yoast SEO Premium

Twitter Cards are a great (visual) addition and can help increase traffic to your website!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use social media’ »

It can be really hard to come up with a topic for a blog post. When you finally found the perfect subject, you probably want to start writing immediately. But to write that perfect blog post, you should take some time to prepare it properly. Today, I’ll give some tips on how to begin your writing process. If you take some time and prepare your blog post adequately, your writing will be so much better! 

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Preparing takes time

The writing process can be divided into three phases. The actual writing is the second phase of your writing process and only takes up about 20% of the time. That is, if you’ve done the preparing phase properly.

Process of good writing explained in a picture: 40% prepaparation, 20% writing, 40% correcting

In my opinion, the preparing phase is the most fun! You can brainstorm, try out things and be creative in this phase. So, although it may seem like this preparing-stuff is just holding you back from the actual writing, you should think of it as the most creative and fun phase. And the most important phase!

Brainstorm

Always start a blog post with a brainstorm. Once you’ve decided on the topic of your post, you should make a list of all the things you would like to address in your post. Don’t be critical in this phase. Just write down anything you come up with. You always can cross off the ‘not so good ideas’ later on.

What is your message?

What is the one thing you want your readers to remember after they’ve read your post? What’s the most important thing you want to say? The answer to these questions is the message of your post. You should write that message down. This is the key information of your blog post. That message should eventually come in the first paragraph of your blog post.

Write a little bit

Although the actual writing comes in the second phase of the writing process, you should definitely write some sentences. Try to find the right words for your topic and for your audience. Try to write some beautiful sentences. I wouldn’t advise you to try to write the first sentence of a blog post in this phase, but you could write a few sentences of an important paragraph. Playing around with words will help you to find the tone of your blog post.

Structure, structure, structure

The most important thing you should do in the preparing phase of writing a blog post is to come up with the structure of your text. At the end of the preparing phase, you should end up with the skeleton of your blog post. What subjects will you address in what order?

After you’ve brainstormed about the topic, you’ll probably end up with a long list of things you would like to address in your blog post. Read through your list, cross of the things you’re not totally sure about and try to see whether or not topics resemble each other. Bundle similar topics. After that, you should think about the order you want to discuss your topics. Make sure you discuss things in a way people understand. Subjects and paragraphs should follow each other in a logical order.

Before I start the actual writing process, I usually have a list with paragraphs. For every paragraph I also have a short description of the things I would like to discuss and the examples I would like to use. In some cases, I already formulated some nice sentences for every paragraph as well.

Hit that keyboard!

Preparing your blog post can be real fun. I really enjoy this phase the most. If you’ve thought your post through it’s time to turn to the next phase and hit that keyboard. Go write your post!

After writing your post, you’re inevitable going to end up in the correcting phase. Very important. Totally hate that phase.

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