Yoast SEO: don’t just set it and forget it!

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

Configure Yoast SEO properly

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

Keyword research – always

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

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

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

Write awesome content

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

Internal linking

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

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

Social previews and redirects

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

Don’t forget your competition

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

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

Conclusion

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

Keep reading: What does Yoast SEO do? »

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How to Yoast your post

Do you want your articles to be as well optimized as possible? Do you aim for that number 1 position in the search results? And do you madly chase traffic and clicks? It’s not easy to achieve all these things entirely on your own, but luckily, Yoast is here to help. In this post, we’ll talk you to the process of optimizing your post in the best possible way. We’ll explain the five steps on how to Yoast your post.

Writing comes first, Yoast comes second

Optimizing your post is important, but should never come first. Writing has three phases. It doesn’t really matter if you’re writing a blog post or an article, or a novel even. First, you prepare, then you write and finally you edit. In that final editing phase, you will be able to Yoast your post.

Preparation is key

Before you start writing an article you should ask yourself some questions: What will be the main message of your post? What do you want to tell people? And: who are my readers? What search terms do I want to be found for?

You need to know who you are writing for and what their goal, or search intent is. What does that mean for the keywords you should use to be found in the search engines? You should take some time to think about what you want to tell your audience and what the structure of your text will look like. Preparing your blog post is crucial. If you do not think about these questions long and hard, you’ll make mistakes like addressing the wrong audience, focusing on the wrong keywords or writing an article that’s badly structured and unfocused.

Write your content

After you’ve thoroughly prepared your blog post or article, you can start the writing phase. Make sure to start with filling out your focus key phrases and synonyms. What are the terms you want to be found for?

Writing should be something you just do. In the preparing-phase you have thought about what you’re going to write, so, in the writing phase, you should just go with the flow. Don’t overthink. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll have the third – and most important phase- to correct and Yoast your post.

Editing: let’s Yoast it!

In the final phase, the editing phase, you’ll be able to really Yoast your post. So, let’s look at the five steps you should take in order to optimize your post to the max.

  1. Make sure your text is readable

    The first step on how to Yoast your post is to check out our readability analysis. You could keep an eye on our readability analysis during your writing phase too, if you like. If your overall readability analysis is green, you’re good to go. But, perhaps, you use sentences that are a little bit too long. Or, you have been using the passive voice too often. Correct those readability issues and make your text nice and easy to read. Check out our article about the readability analysis for more tips.

  2. Check out your snippet preview

    You want people to click on your results in the search result pages. In order to make your result stand out, you need to write a kickass meta description. Let people know they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site! So make an effort and choose a title and a meta description that really stands out. Read our article on how to use Yoast SEO to write an awesome meta description if you want more practical tips.

  3. Which SEO bullets need improvement?

    The third step on how to Yoast your post is to check out the SEO analysis. Which aspects of your SEO need improvement? Perhaps you should use your keyword or its synonym a bit more often? Or maybe you’re already overdoing it? What about headings and images?

    Check out the problems and improvements the Yoast SEO analysis indicates. Usually, you can easily make some tweaks that’ll make your copy a little better optimized for the search engines. But don’t overdo it! You do not need all green bullets. If your overall SEO bullet is green, you’re good to go!

  4. Add those internal links

    To really Yoast your post, we would advise you to take some time to think about your internal linking structure and to work on improving it. Are you linking to your most important articles? Are you linking to the articles that are most closely related to the article you’re currently writing? Make sure your site structure is tip-top. This will pay off in terms of rankings. Read more about the power of internal linking in our article about why you should use Yoast internal linking.

  5. Read and reread!

    Our SEO analysis is a tool. It is not just any tool, we’ve thoroughly evaluated all of the checks in a recent recalibration project. That being said, it remains a tool. You should always think for yourself. Read your blog post after you’re done editing and optimizing. Reread it. Let other people read it. That’s the final step to get your blog post to that next level.

Yoast your post

Writing is hard. Optimizing your post is hard. Yoast tries to make it a bit more easy for you. We’ll check things and make suggestions for improvements. We’ll help you to Yoast your post. But in the end, it’ll always remain hard work.

Good luck! Let’s Yoast it!

The post How to Yoast your post appeared first on Yoast.

Rank with that cornerstone content!

Cornerstone articles are those posts that are most important to you. The ones you really want to rank with. The posts that make people come back to your site or buy your stuff. But how do you get those cornerstone articles to end up high in the search engines? How do you get the most out of your cornerstone articles?

To rank with these articles, you need to make sure they’re the best articles you can write. You also need a kickass internal linking structure. Luckily, Yoast is there to help! In this post, I’ll explain just what cornerstone content is and how to rank with these articles! Are you struggling with implementing cornerstone content? Check out how Yoast SEO can help you with your cornerstone strategy!

What not to do when trying to rank

Before we cover what to do, let’s first briefly discuss what not to do, and how ranking works. Without a doubt the most common question we are asked is: “how do I make my site rank for keyword X?”. What most people don’t realize, is that they’re asking the wrong question. You see, sites don’t rank: individual pages rank. If you want to rank for a particular keyword or keyphrase, you’ll need to determine which post or page you want to rank for that particular keyword.

Adding that keyword to the title of every page is not helpful; you should use a focus keyphrase only once. What also won’t work is writing 200 articles around variations of a keyphrase, without one central article linking them all together. You need one single page that is the center of the content about that topic – a “hub” page, if you will. That’s where cornerstone content comes in. But how do you make sure your cornerstone content articles start ranking in the search engines?

How to rank with your cornerstone content?

Create awesome content

Your cornerstone content will need to be 100% awesome in every way. You need to think about keyword research, headlines, awesome content and more. Not sure where to begin? Check out our detailed post on what type of article cornerstone content should be.

Read more: How the Yoast SEO cornerstone analysis helps you create your best articles »

Now go ahead and create that post or page on your site. Take your time, as this is going to be the content that’ll make you rank, but not just that, it’s going to be the content that ranks. Which means real people are going to read it as well, and you need to convert those people. So, think about search engines by all means, but think even more about the visitors who will end up reading that page – and give them something valuable.

Which keywords to target with cornerstone articles?

Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for your most ‘head’ or most competitive keywords. Of course, you should still be realistic when determining these head keywords. But, your internal linking structure will help your cornerstone pages rank (more on that below), which is why these articles should aim to rank for your most competitive keywords.

Positioning that new cornerstone content on your site

Now let’s talk about where to place that content on your site. Important content deserves a place within your core site structure, not a news item or blog post drifting around somewhere. It should be easily found in a few clicks.

This also means you should not create other pages within your site that target the exact same keyword! And you really don’t have to, as there are many ways to use keyword variations for these other pages and use these in your site structure.

Build a great internal linking structure

Like external links, internal links are very important for SEO. If you want your cornerstone content to rank well, your site structure needs to be impeccable. Google considers the articles that have most internal links pointing towards them the most important content on your website. That’s why you need to make sure your cornerstones get most internal links. These are the ones you want to rank with!

When you’re adding links to your cornerstones, use the keyword you’re targeting as the anchor text for that link, if possible. But most importantly, link from within the content. Don’t just add some site-wide sidebar/footer links. The reason for this is simple: links from within content are way more valuable than links from sidebars.

In addition to that, you need to make sure that you’re linking to your cornerstones from pages that actually are related. Contextual links are the ones that’ll help you rank. Adding hand-picked, relevant links that are useful for someone visiting your website, is the best way of achieving this. Automation will not give you quality results. That means that building a decent linking strategy is a lot of work, especially if your site is large.

Finding internal links in Google

You can use Google to find relevant internal links. The easiest way to figure out which pages Google thinks are relevant for your keyphrase is a ‘site:’ search in Google. So if I were to try and find the most important page for our local SEO plugin within yoast.com, I’d search for:

site:yoast.com local seo plugin

If you do this for a keyphrase on your site, you’ll probably find quite a few pages. Edit each of those pages and add a link to your new cornerstone content. As you can imagine, this can be a lot of work!

Boosting your internal linking structure with Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO has two features to help you work on a great internal linking structure for your cornerstones. The text link counter and the internal linking tool (Premium). Both will make it a lot easier to work on that perfect site structure for your cornerstones.

The text link counter shows you how many incoming and outgoing internal links a post or page has, so you can keep an eye on the amount of internal links your cornerstone article gets.

The internal linking tool helps you to quickly pick related links to add to your posts and pages. It analyses all of your posts to figure out which articles are related. In the sidebar, you can easily pick articles that are relevant to link to. You can simply drag and drop the links in your article. The articles will be related and contextual because the plugin analyzed the content of all of your posts on prominent words. If you have indicated that your article is a cornerstone article, it will pop up highest, because they are the most important. Make sure to link to these, whenever they pop up.

Promote your cornerstone content

If well-written, your cornerstone content should be something to be proud of! Something that others willingly share and thereby also something that will attract links. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people who have written about related topics: show them what you have created and that it might be worthwhile for their visitors to see. You might even want to offer to write a guest post for them on the topic, linking back to your article.

Conclusion: how to rank with cornerstones?

Your cornerstone articles deserve special attention. They need to be written carefully, to be the most complete and authoritative. They should also be easy to find on your site! Cornerstones need many contextual links pointing towards them to make Google see that they are the most important articles. That’ll make them rank in the search engines. That’ll get them the traffic they’re worthy of!

If you want to learn more about cornerstone content and setting up your site structure, we recommend…

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How to set up a cornerstone content strategy with Yoast SEO

On your site, you’ll probably have a few articles that are most dear to your heart. Articles you desperately want people to read. Articles you want people to find with Google. At Yoast, we call these articles your cornerstone articles. How does the Yoast SEO plugin help you set up a cornerstone content strategy? I’ll tell you all about that in this blog post.

What is cornerstone content?

Cornerstone content consists of those articles that you’re most proud of. The articles that reflect the mission of your company perfectly, and the ones you definitely want to rank well. In general, cornerstone articles are lengthy, and they tend to be informative.

Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to using a cornerstone content strategy. It is worth your time, though! Think about the posts or pages on your site. Which are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? Choose these to be your cornerstone content.

Read more: What type of content should cornerstone content be? »

What does Yoast SEO do with cornerstone content?

There are three aspects to a successful cornerstone content approach:

  • Cornerstone content should be lengthy, well-written and well-optimized.
  • Cornerstone articles should have a prominent place in your site’s structure.
  • You should keep your cornerstones fresh and up to date.

Yoast SEO will help you take care of all of these things!

1. Write awesome articles

The SEO and readability analysis in Yoast SEO will give you feedback on your writing. If you consider a post to be one of your cornerstone content articles, you should toggle the switch to ‘on’ in the ‘cornerstone content’ tab, underneath the ‘focus keyphrase’ tab.

Enabling the cornerstone analysis in Yoast SEO

Indicating that an article is cornerstone content, will make the SEO analysis and the readability analysis a bit more strict. For example, we propose to write at least 300 words for a normal post. If a post is cornerstone content, we urge you to write at least 900 words.

Our SEO analysis will help you optimize your blog post for the search engines. For cornerstone content, you have to go the extra mile. Make sure you use your focus keyphrase enough, mention it in a few headings, and optimize your images. Readability is equally important, though. Our readability analysis helps you to, for instance, use enough headings and to write in short, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs.

Keep reading: How our cornerstone analysis helps you create your best articles »

2. Incorporate cornerstone content in your site structure

You have to link to your cornerstone articles to make them rank high in the search engines. By linking to your favorite articles often, you’ll tell Google that these are the ones that are most important. Think of it as a map: big cities have considerably more roads leading towards them than small towns. Those cities are your cornerstones. They should receive most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. If you build your site structure like this, you won’t be competing with your own content for a place in the search engines.

Yoast SEO has two useful features to help you link to your cornerstone content articles.

Internal linking tool

If you use our premium plugin, you can use our internal linking tool. This tool will make linking suggestions for other posts based on the words you’re using in your post. The posts you’ve marked as cornerstone content articles – as described previously – will always appear on top of our list of suggestions. That way, whenever you’re writing about a specific topic, you’ll find the right cornerstone article to link to. Read more about how to use the Yoast SEO internal linking tool.

Using our internal linking tool will remind you to link to your cornerstones whenever you’re writing a new post. As a result, your cornerstones will stay on top in your linking structure. And that’s what they need to start ranking.

Text link counter

The text link counter allows you to see all the internal links you’ve put in a post and all internal links to a post from your other pages. This tool provides you with a clear overview of the distribution of your internal links. Make sure to check (and keep checking) if your cornerstone articles receive enough internal links!

text links counter

3. Keep your cornerstones up to date

Regularly updating your cornerstone content is important for your cornerstone strategy. After all, your cornerstones should be timeless, and therefore, always contain the latest insights. If you have Yoast SEO Premium installed, you’ll have an additional feature to help you keep your cornerstones up to date. The stale cornerstone content filter allows you to see at a glance which of your cornerstones need updating. It works in both your post overview, and your pages overview. Neat, right?

Of course, at Yoast, we practice what we preach, so you’ll find no stale content here ;-)

Cornerstone content strategy made simple with Yoast SEO

Your cornerstone content strategy consists of several elements. Your cornerstone content articles should be informative, nice to read and well-optimized. In addition to that, they should have a prominent place in your site’s structure. Yoast SEO helps you achieve both these things. And last but not least, the Premium plugin helps you keep your cornerstones fresh and up to date. Don’t skimp on optimizing your cornerstones: they deserve that little bit of extra attention!

Read on: Why you should buy Yoast SEO Premium »

The post How to set up a cornerstone content strategy with Yoast SEO appeared first on Yoast.

Improve your site’s structure in 4 simple steps

Optimizing your site structure should be an important aspect of your SEO strategy. Structuring your site is of crucial importance for your SEO. But how does one improve a site’s structure? Where do you start and how do you keep an eye on the structure of your site if your site is growing? In this post, I’ll teach you to improve your site’s structure in 4 simple steps. 

Learn how to structure your site well with our Site structure training! »

Site structure training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

Yoast SEO site structure features

We spent the past year thinking about how to translate the advice we give on improving your site’s structure into useful features for our plugin. This resulted in three new features (and we’re already thinking about new ones). The first feature we released was the internal linking feature. The internal linking tool helps you to figure out which articles you should be linking to. Our second feature on site structure, the cornerstone content analysis, will help you write awesome cornerstone content articles and get those articles in a central position in your linking structure. And the third feature, the text link counter allows you to check which articles need more internal links. Combined, these three site structure features are a powerful toolset for improving your site structure.

Step 1: Update and improve your Cornerstones

Your cornerstone content consists of the most important articles on your site. The ones you want people to read. The ones you want to rank with in Google. For all cornerstones, you should check the box in the snippet preview meta box.

Once you’ve checked that box, your content will be assessed more strictly by our readability analysis. You may wonder why we’re being so fussy about cornerstone content. The answer to that question is this: for cornerstone articles you should raise the bar, because they’re very important! They should be better than your other articles and therefore, demand more of your writing skills. Our cornerstone analysis will help you to raise your standards (and stick to them). It will be harder to score that green bullet. You have to do all important things right!

Step 2: Link to those cornerstones!

The second step to improving your site’s structure is to ensure that blogposts surrounding a certain topic all link to your most important article about that topic. Use the text link counter to see whether your cornerstones have enough links. In your post-overview, you can select your cornerstone articles.

In our example, the Ultimate guide to small business SEO has fewer links than our other two ultimate guides. You should open the cornerstone post with few links and check the Yoast internal linking feature.

The articles our internal linking tool suggests are great suggestions to link from to your cornerstones. You should go to these articles one by one and add links to your cornerstones (that’s a bit of work!).

If you aren’t using Yoast SEO premium (and do not have access to our internal linking feature), use your internal search function and search for the keyword of your cornerstone article. The post that’ll come up in this search query should be linking to your cornerstones.

Step 3: Improve the structure of orphaned articles

Once you’ve improved your cornerstone articles and made sure you’ve added links from all of your posts to those cornerstones, it’s time to make sure that there are no orphaned articles on your site. Orphaned articles are posts or pages that hardly any other posts link to. They are hard to find on your site, both by your audience and by Google. In order to identify orphaned articles, you can use our text link counter. Sort the posts by the number of internal links linking to the post.

Posts with fewest links will appear at the top of the list. Open these posts and (again, if you use Yoast SEO Premium) check the suggestions of the internal linking tool. Using the tool, you can make a list of posts that should be linking to your orphaned posts. After that, you can open those similar posts and add links to your orphaned posts. You can also use the search function to find posts to link to your orphaned article.

Step 4: Improve those dead ends!

Every post should have suggestions for further reading. After all, you want people to stay on your website. Suggestions should always be on topic. People reading about ballet shoes are probably interested in ballet shoes. So, offer them more reading material on ballet or on ballet shoes, but don’t bore them with karate.

Open your post overview and sort your posts by the number of internal links in the post, using our text link counter.

Open the posts with fewest internal links. Add links to similar posts using our internal linking tool, in the same way as described above. It’s so easy and it will increase the time people spend on your site considerably.

Read more: ‘Internal linking for SEO: why and how’ »

Conclusion

Agreed, it is a bit of work. But if you set to mind to it, follow these 4 steps and use the Yoast SEO site structure features, you’ll be able to improve your site’s structure significantly. And that is most definitely going to result in longer visits by your readers and in higher rankings in Google.

Keep reading: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

How to use the text link counter‎

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.

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

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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’ »

Why you should use the Yoast SEO text link counter

In the 5.0 release of Yoast SEO we’ve added the Yoast SEO text link counter. This new functionality counts the number of internal links in a post and the number of internal links to a post. It sounds really simple, but it’s extremely useful and actionable. It’ll really make it so much easier to improve the structure of your site. Why is that? Why is site structure even an issue? And why is our new text link counter useful? Here, I’ll explain all about that. 

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

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What does the text link counter do?

The text link counter counts the internal text links in your posts. It consists of two counters: The first counter counts the number of links in your post and the second counter counts number of links to your post.

You can find the Yoast SEO text link counter in your post overview. In this overview you’ll see two additional columns. The first column shows the first counter – internal links in your post – and the second one shows the second counter – internal links to your post:

yoast seo 5.0 text link counter

Site structure and SEO

The structure of a site is a very important aspect of SEO. After all, Google follows links. The result of Google following links is that the internal linking structure of your site determines how Google crawls your site. Posts and pages that are linked to more often, are crawled more frequently than post and pages with few (internal) links. Same goes for visitors: pages and posts that have many links referring to them, get more visitors. If you forget to link to a specific blog post, nobody (Google included) will find it.

An internal linking structure that makes sense is therefore crucial for SEO. That’s why, for the past year, we’ve added some really nice features to Yoast SEO Premium that’ll help you to keep your site’s structure up to date: the internal linking functionality and the cornerstone content checks. The text link counter, available for everyone in the free version of Yoast SEO, is another great feature that’ll help you to improve your site’s structure.

Why should I use Yoast’s text link counter?

Find articles with few links

The text link counter will allow you to assess the number of internal links each post receives and the number of links each post contains. This is important stuff. You’ll be able to instantly see which posts are hardly linked to at all. If these are important posts in your opinion, you can take action and link to these from other (similar posts). This will help your most valuable posts and pages to rank higher.

Actionable! Improve your SEO

You should use the text link counter because it is a very actionable feature. It allows you to really get started with working on your SEO. The text link counter indicates which articles have fewest links. These are the articles that need your attention! This feature really points to weak points in your site’s SEO. It tells you where to start optimizing.

Conclusion: Indispensable new feature

The new text link counter is an indispensable feature for everyone who takes SEO seriously. It’ll give you feedback on those articles that need attention in internal linking. Use our text link counter in combination with the internal linking tool. That’ll make it so easy to take your internal linking structure to the next level!

Read more: ‘Internal linking for SEO: why and how’ »

Avoid these site structure mistakes!

If you take your SEO – and users – seriously, you’ll be working on a kick-ass site structure. Setting up a decent site structure is rather hard. Maintaining a solid site structure if your site is growing is even harder. Mistakes are easily made. In this post, I will share 5 common site structure mistakes people often make. Make sure to avoid all of these! 

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#1 Hiding your cornerstones

Your most important articles – your cornerstones – should not be hidden away. Cornerstone articles are the articles that your most proud of, that most clearly reflect the mission of your website. Some people forget to link to their most precious articles. If an article receives no or few internal links, search engines will find it less easily (as search engines follow links). Google will regard articles with few internal links as less important, and rank them accordingly.

Solution: link to those cornerstones

Ideally, you should be able to navigate to your cornerstone articles in one or two clicks from the homepage. Make sure they’re visible for your visitors, so people can easily find them.

Most importantly, link to those cornerstone articles. Don’t forget to mention them in your other blog posts! Our internal linking tool can really help you to remember your cornerstones at all times!

#2 No breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are important for both the user experience and the SEO of your website. And yet, some people do not use them. Breadcrumbs show how the current page fits into the structure of your site, which allows your users to easily navigate your site. They also allow search engines to determine the structure of your site without difficulty.

Solution: add those breadcrumbs

No excuses here! Just add those breadcrumbs. Yoast SEO can help you do that!

#3 HUGE categories

Categories should be relatively similar in size. But without even noticing it, people will sometimes write about one subject much more than about another. As a result, one category can slowly grow much larger than other categories. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a very large category.

Solution: split categories

If you’ve created a huge category, split it in two (or three). You should check the size of your categories every now and then, especially if you write a lot of blog posts.

#4 Using too many tags

Don’t create too many tags. Some people want to make tags really specific. But if every post receives yet another new unique tag, you are not structuring anything, because posts don’t become grouped or linked. So that’s pretty much useless.

Solution: use tags in moderation

Make sure that tags are used more than once or twice and that tags group articles together that really belong together. You should also ensure that your tags are in fact available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article. Tags are useful for your visitors (and not just for Google) to read more about the same topic.

Read more: ‘Using category and tag pages for SEO’ »

#5 Not visualizing your site structure

A final site structure mistake people make is forgetting to visualize the site structure. Visitors want to be able to find stuff on your website with ease. The main categories of your blog should all have a place in the menu on your homepage. But don’t create too many categories, or your menu will get cluttered. A menu should give a clear overview and reflect the structure of your site. Ideally, the menu helps visitors understand how your website is structured.

Solution: dive into UX

In order to create a good and clear overview of your site, you should really dive into some aspects of User eXperience (UX). Think about what your visitors are looking for and how you could help them to navigate through your website. You could, for instance, start with reading our blog posts about User eXperience (UX).

Fix your site structure mistakes!

Site structure is an essential aspect of an SEO strategy. The structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. With your site’s structure, you can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engine. So, it’s important to do it right. Especially if you’re adding a lot of content, the structure of your site could be changing quickly. Try to stay on top!

Did we forget a site structure mistake that you encounter often? Please share it with us in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

How do I determine what my cornerstone articles are?

Cornerstone articles are those articles that are most important to your website. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually explainers; relatively long articles combining insights from different blog posts.

Perhaps you never thought about cornerstone articles before, even if you have your website for quite some time already. Still, you have a few articles that do really well in the search engines. How should you decide which articles are your cornerstones? And once you’ve identified your cornerstone content, what should you do to optimize these articles? Here, I’ll help you to determine which articles are your cornerstones and I’ll give some tips to optimize them to increase their chance of ranking. 

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

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5 steps towards a pragmatic cornerstone approach

Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research, after which you can produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But you’ve probably written tons of articles already. Follow these five steps to turn some into killer cornerstone content:

Step 1: Think about your keywords

You have to determine the essential keywords you want to rank for. Make sure you use the words your audience search for. Trying to rank for words nobody uses, is utterly useless. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the most ‘head’ or most competitive keywords you’re aiming for.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the complete guide’ »

Step 2: Choose the best post

Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords closest to the most important, most competitive keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!

Step 3: Rewrite it

Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. Expand it and make sure it’s totally up to date. You should check it and expand that article regularly. Make sure that this article covers all the information that is relevant to that topic.

Also, make sure the article is incredibly nice and easy to read. Reading from a screen is challenging. Cornerstone articles tend to be longer than regular articles. You should, therefore, focus even more on readability. Think about the structure of your text, present topics in a logical order, write clear and short paragraphs.

Keep reading: ‘5 tips for a readable blogpost’ »

Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants

Once you’ve chosen and improved your cornerstone content article, you should pay some attention to the blog posts that are about similar topics as your cornerstone article. These other blog posts should be optimized for long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re focusing on in your cornerstone article. So, if the keyword of your cornerstone article is ‘ballet shoes’, the keywords of the other blog post could be: ‘ballet shoes for kids’, ‘cheap ballet shoes’, ‘classical ballet shoes’ and ‘ballet shoes for men’.

Read on: ‘Why you should focus on long tail keywords’ »

Step 5: Linking from those tails to your head

An important reason why you should use a cornerstone content approach is because you do not want to compete with your own content for ranking in Google. That’s why you have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important one on your site. You can do that by linking from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!

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

Internal linking for SEO: Why and how?

Before your content can rank, it needs links. Google finds your posts and pages best when they’re linked to from somewhere on the web. Internal links also connect your content and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. They can establish a hierarchy on your site, allowing you to give the most important pages and posts more link value than other, less valuable, pages. So using the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO!

Did you know our Site structure training can help you figure out how to build the best possible structure for your site? You’ll learn all about cornerstone content, taxonomies, internal linking and much more. Try it out, you’ll love it!

Why are links important to Google?

Google uses links to find out what content on your site is related and the value of that content.

Relationships between content

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot called Google bot. This bot arrives at the homepage of a website, starts to render the page and follows the first link. By following links Google can work out the relationship between the various pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site cover similar subject matter.

On top of this post, for example, you’ll see links to the ‘Content SEO’, ‘Internal linking’ and ‘Site structure’ tags. We make sure Google understands that the content on those pages is related to the content of this post by adding these links.

Link value

In addition to understanding the relationship between content, Google divides link value between all links on a web page. Often, the homepage of a website has the greatest link value because it has the most backlinks. That link value will be shared between all the links found on that homepage. The link value passed to the following page will be divided between the links on that page, and so on.

Therefore, your newest blog posts will get more link value if you link to them from the homepage, instead of only on the category page. And Google will find new posts quicker if they’re linked to from the homepage.

When you get the concept that links pass their link value on, you’ll understand that more links to a post mean more value. Because Google deems a page that gets lots of valuable links as more important, you’ll increase the chance of that page ranking. 

Setting up an internal linking strategy

Internal links vs external links

Every website consists of internal and external links. Internal links connect pages and posts on your own website and external links connect your pages to other websites. In this post, we’ve focus on internal links and what they mean for SEO. If you want to get more external links pointing to your site, see our posts on link building.

It’s crucial for your site’s SEO to evaluate and improve internal linking strategy on a regular basis. By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands:

  • the relevance of pages;
  • the relationship between pages;
  • and the value of pages.

First: the ideal structure for your site

We always advise website owners to imagine their website to be a pyramid. On top of it is your homepage, below that there are some sections or categories, and further down there are individual posts and pages (possibly with subcategories in between).

ideal site structure pyramid

If you do it well, your website’s menu should reflect this structure. In our Ultimate guide to site structure you can read how to create the best site structure for your site.

What is your most important content?

Then, you should determine what your most important content is. If you’re not sure, please read our article on cornerstone content. In short, it’s your best and most complete content; it’s about the core of your business. It’s the content you want people to find when they’re searching for a topics or products that you specialize in.

Because you want to let Google know that this is your most essential content, you need to add many links to it. There are various spots from where you can link to your cornerstone content. Here, we’ll give the most common options, from your post’s copy to your navigation.

Add contextual links

When you’ve written various articles about a certain topic you should link them with each other. This will show Google – and users! – that those articles are topically related. You can link directly from sentences in your copy or add links at the end of your post.

Moreover, you want to show Google which of those articles is your cornerstone: your most complete article on this topic. To do so, you have to add a link to the cornerstone in all of the articles on this topic. And don’t forget to link back from the cornerstone to the individual posts.

Contextual linking: an example

On our blog, there’s a cornerstone content article called ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’. We want this post to rank for all related search queries about [keyword research] in Google search results.

So we’ve added links from other relevant articles, such as ‘7 keyword research mistakes to avoid‘, ‘ What is keyword research‘ or ‘Focus on long tail keywords‘ to the main article. And we link back from the main article to these posts. In doing so, Google will understand that the ultimate guide contains most information about [keyword research]. So in the end, Google will rank the ultimate guide above the other, shorter posts about keyword research.

Add a related post section?

There are many plugins and modules that add complete related posts sections to your posts. If you use one, we recommend testing whether the related posts actually are related posts. If you’re not sure, linking to posts manually is probably best. That’s what we do on Yoast.com – we select a related post manually (or with a little help from our internal linking tool – more on that later) and place a link to that post at the bottom of the article.

Michiel explains this in detail in this post about linking to related posts.

Add navigational links

Besides linking from topically-related posts and pages, it’s possible to make your cornerstone content more authoritative by adding links to it from the homepage or the top navigation. You should do this with the posts and pages that are most important to your business. This will give these posts or pages a lot of link value and makes them stronger in Google’s eyes.

Add links to your taxonomies

Taxonomies, like categories and tags, help you organize your site and help users and Google to understand what your content is about. If you have a blog it could be beneficial to add internal links to the taxonomies the post belongs to. Adding links to the category and tags helps Google to understand the structure of your blog and helps visitors to more easily navigate to related posts.

Add links to popular or recent posts

The last option to mention is creating internal links to the most popular or newest posts on your website. Preferably create these sections in the sidebar or the footer of your website to have them appear on all pages and posts.

As link value passes to these most popular/recent posts from many different pages and posts they really get a boost. Besides that, the posts will be easier for visitors to access, which will increase traffic – and more traffic is a positive sign to Google.

More on internal links

No-follow links

You also probably have links that aren’t important for SEO on your website. If you have a login link for your clients on the homepage, for example, you don’t want to leak link value to your login page – that page doesn’t need to rank high in the search results.

You used to be able to prevent losing link value to unimportant links by giving them a ‘no-follow’ tag. A ‘no-follow’ tag asks Google not to follow the link: so no link value is lost. Now you might think: “I’m going to ‘no-follow’ less important links to give the most important links more link value.” While this worked in the past, Google has become smarter. Now it seems that the link value for the whole page completely disappears when you add a ‘no-follow’ tag to a link on it. Therefore it makes more sense to have fewer links on a page instead of ‘no-following’ some of the links.

Note that adding a ‘no-follow’ tag doesn’t mean that those target pages can’t be found in Google’s search results. If you don’t want pages or posts to show up in the search results you should give them a ‘no-index’ tag as well. The ‘no-index’ tag means that Google shouldn’t render the page and shouldn’t give the content a place in the Google index to show up in the search results.

Anchor texts

Once you have decided which links should be on a page and which pages should get link value, it’s important to use the right anchor text. The anchor text is the clickable text that visitors see. For example, the anchor text of the two internal links in the example below are ‘link schemes’ and ‘paid links’:

Anchor texts
You can see the anchor text containing the link in this image.

If you over-optimize anchor text you might hurt your website. And by over-optimizing, we mean keyword stuffing. Previously, you could give all anchor texts the same keyword and Google made your website rank higher for that keyword. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to understand that the content around the anchor text says more about the relevancy of a keyword than the anchor text itself. So make sure the anchor text looks natural in your copy: it’s fine to use keywords but don’t add the exact same keywords to every link’s anchor text. 

Read more: The context of internal links »

Easy internal linking with Yoast SEO Premium

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps improve your internal link structure with its internal linking suggestion tool, which helps you to find related posts to link to. When you’re writing a post, you can immediately link to a related post by dragging the link into the editor.

The plugin also includes an option to mark your most important articles as cornerstone content, which tells the suggestion tool to show those cornerstone content articles at the top of the list, so you’ll never forget to link to them! Read more about using the Yoast SEO internal linking tool.

In the free version of Yoast SEO, you’ll also find a handy tool called the text link counter. This tool counts the internal links in a post and the internal links pointing to a post. This visualizes which posts could use a few more links or which ones should receive more links. This will all help you work purposely on your site structure.

To make it even easier to find posts that aren’t linked to, Yoast SEO Premium has the orphaned content filter. This feature allows you to see which posts and pages aren’t linked to at all, by other posts and pages on your website. Using the filter, finding important posts that need more inbound internal links is a piece of cake!

Did you know you can get a monthly or yearly subscription to all Yoast SEO plugins and courses? This way you can get the internal linking tool and access to the site structure training, for as long as you need. Learn more about the best deal for Yoast fans.

Go link your content

Without links, your content can’t rank! With a solid internal linking strategy, you can show which content is related and which of your articles are most informative and valuable. If you follow the guidelines in this post both Google and your users will understand your site better, which will, in turn, increase your chance of ranking.

Keep reading: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

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