This is the third post in an 8-part series on how to rank your business for local searches at Google. Previously, I’ve listed the most important aspects that influence your local ranking and discussed how to get the most out of Google My Business. Here, I’ll focus on another essential asset for local SEO: optimizing your website for local search. Learn why and how to do that!

Your website is one of your most important pieces of digital equity, and one of the fundamental components of a successful local marketing stack. It’s a crucial communication vehicle from you to your customers. Regardless of changing consumer search and social media behavior over time, it will remain a place that consumers visit. It’s the place to get more information about and connect with your business.

All that being said, it may surprise you to learn that your website makes up a relatively small part of Google’s local ranking algorithm. Google is famously secretive about how it ranks local businesses. But the experts surveyed for the Local Search Ranking Factors peg website influence at only around 14% for local pack results, and only 24% for local organic results. More on the distinction later in this post.

Your website is the ranking factor over which you have complete control, however. This makes it an ideal asset from which to begin your local marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at the most important website optimization criteria (also known as on-site optimization or on-page optimization). Improving your performance across each of these criteria will help you rank better for local searches, and attract more customers.

Crawlability

Google has built a giant database of hundreds of trillions of webpages which its algorithm then analyzes and ranks. It does this by sending out scores of digital robots, or “spiders,” which visit page after page. They “click on” the links on each page to see where they lead. We refer to this activity as “crawling.” 

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Technical issues

As a business owner, you want to make sure that Google’s spiders are crawling your website and storing its contents in their database appropriately. The quickest way to assess your website’s crawlability for major hurdles to Google’s spiders is to enter this search at Google: [site:yourdomain.com]. For example:

number of results in search

Before you browse the list of results, take a look at the number that Google returns and judge whether it’s more-or-less accurate. For example, if you have a 5-page website and Google returns 1000 pages, or if you have a 1000-page website and Google only returns 5 pages, you have a major technical issue with your site. You may want to dive into that with the Yoast SEO plugin, or even bring in outside assistance.

You should also register your website with Google Search Console for additional technical advice and other testing tools. You can read more about GSC here.

Site architecture

The term site architecture, for the purposes of this article, refers to the arrangement of the functional and visual aspects of your website. Essentially it’s the hierarchy of pages within your site, and the hierarchy of content within each page.

When it comes to local search, there are a couple of key best practices to follow for your site architecture.

First, place your basic contact information in the header (usually at the top righthand side) and footer of your website. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers who land on your website to contact you or to make a transaction. No matter what page they enter first.

My friend Willi Galloway’s Perch Furniture website does an excellent job with this feature.

It’s also a good idea to have a dedicated “Contact us” page with more detailed information about your business. Make sure you link to this page from your homepage, and ideally from your primary navigation menu as well.

Contact page content

Your contact page should contain the same information you submitted to Google My Business (address, phone number, and hours). It should also contain an email address or contact form for customers who prefer email to voice calls. If you collect reviews and testimonials from customers, this is a good page to include at least a handful of those.

If you’re a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you should include written driving directions from population centers near you. These driving directions not only help prospective customers but also help Google identify markets you serve (more on this in the Relevance section below). Include an embedded Google Map too, as Google may track clicks for driving driving directions as a ranking factor.

If you’re a Service Area Business, your contact page should mention the major surrounding towns and cities that your business serves. You might even consider building a unique page for each of these major towns and cities. Link to them from your contact page and fill them with case studies and testimonials from customers in those markets.

The Perfectly Optimized Local Landing Page, by Bowler Hat and Search Engine Land

 

Marcus Miller of Bowler Hat Marketing has put together this excellent example above.

Advice for businesses with multiple locations

If your business operates more than one physical location, it’s essential to create a unique page for each one. Including a unique page for each location helps your customers (and Google) avoid conflating contact information between them. It’s also the best way to expand your local ranking potential to multiple cities.

If you operate a handful of locations, link to the contact page for each one from the footer of each page of your website.  If you operate more than a handful, link to a store locator page from your primary navigation or other utility menu.

Special markup: Schema.org

Schema.org is a code protocol developed jointly by the world’s top search engines. It’s created to make it easier for companies to structure the data they present on their websites. One of the most widely-used schemas is for business contact information.

As my friend Mary Bowling says, marking up your contact information in schema.org is like “handing Google a business card”. Google’s pretty smart, but rather than leaving to chance that it will be able to crawl your contact info, why not do everything you can to guarantee it?

It’s not clear that marking up your contact information in schema.org will directly improve your rankings. But it can give your organic results some extra visual impact, increasing chances that customers will click on your result.

schema.org local seo

There are various schemas for LocalBusiness, with more added every year, including LegalService, AutomotiveBusiness, and more.

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Crawlability made easy: the Yoast Local SEO plugin

Whew! That’s a lot of advice to consider. Luckily, you can use the Yoast Local SEO plugin to take care of lots of it. You’ll have to add the proper pages to your WordPress-powered website and link them appropriately from your menus yourself. But the plugin handles most of the technical details required for your contact page, and I highly recommend it.

Mobility

At the moment, the average consumer is surprisingly forgiving of non-mobile-friendly websites. 70% of all local searches, however, are projected to come from mobile devices within the next two years. So businesses that fail to prepare their websites for this reality are going to see customer conversions – and search rankings – drop significantly.

The SEO industry cried wolf on Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update a couple of years ago. But now the tea leaves are very clear that mobility will be a significant ranking factor in the coming years. You can prepare for the inevitable by making your website faster, and making it easier for mobile visitors to use.

Test your site’s mobile friendliness

Google provides this easy-to-use free tool to test how friendly your website is for mobile visitors. It warns you about any major suboptimal features, and renders a screenshot of how your site appears for the majority of mobile visitors.

Improve mobile user experience

Google also provides a detailed guide of how to improve the user experience of your website for mobile visitors. Key aspects of user experience to keep in mind:

  • Does the width of your website automatically adjust to the screen size (“viewport”) of the visitor’s device?
  • Does text automatically resize for mobile visitors, so that they don’t have to pinch-and-scroll to read it?
  • Are your calls to action and other buttons large enough for people to click with their fingers and thumbs?

These kinds of adjustments for the mobile visitor comprise what’s known as “responsive” behavior. If your WordPress website is not yet responsive it’s time to upgrade your theme to one that is.

Make your site faster

And of course, one of the biggest website improvements you can make is to get your site to load faster. We’ve all been frustrated by sites that load slowly, or won’t load at all, on slower data connections. Sites that load quickly help build positive digital engagement with your business, and there’s some evidence to suggest that both load time and engagement with your content improve your rankings.

Conveniently, Google also provides a free tool to assess how quickly your site loads relative to others. This one is an extremely tough grader though! It’s rare to see sites score above the 75-80 range. Nonetheless if you want to supercharge your website speed, Google provides free advice for how to do it. Find it in the Possible Optimizations section of this tool.

Relevance

Thus far I’ve focused mostly on the technical aspects of your website. But if your technically-optimized website features weak or irrelevant content, you’re going to rank poorly – and attract very few customers.

From a content standpoint, the goal of your website is to communicate a strong “scent” to both Google and users about exactly what products or services you offer, and where you offer them.

What keywords (keyphrases) to target

At the risk of stating the obvious: you want to be relevant for keywords and phrases that your customers are searching for. This typically means using generic layperson’s terms to describe your products and services as opposed to industry jargon. (Unless you’re in a very niche business-to-business industry.) An example from the medical field would be to use “ear, nose, and throat doctor” instead of “otolaryngologist.” 

Keyword research is an entire sub-discipline within SEO and it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole. But there are a couple of easy sources for good keywords to target:

  • Pay attention to the language that customers use in their phone calls with you (or your staff) and in emails and contact forms.
  • Pay attention to the category terms that Google My Business returns when you type related keywords.
  • Perform a search for each of the terms above and scroll to the bottom of the results page. Google will list terms related to the one you searched for, front-and-center.

Build a master list of these terms and match them up with pages on your website, one keyword to one page. It’s entirely likely each page will rank for far more terms than the keyword you target. But it’s good to keep your pages focused on a small handful of terms.

In addition to talking about your products or services, you should include your city and state or metropolitan area as part of these keyphrases as well. As I mentioned in the comments of my previous post Google has gotten better at detecting the area that a local business website serves – particularly for websites that use schema.org. But it’s still a good practice to sprinkle these geographic keywords liberally within your website.

Where to place your keywords

Your Title Tags are far-and-away the most important places to put your keywords. Note that Title tags and the Page or Post titles that you enter in WordPress are not the same thing.

To see what your existing Title Tags are, perform the “site:yourdomain.com” search I mentioned earlier in the Crawlability section.

The blue link text associated with each page in these results is the Title Tag of that page.

For editing your Title Tags, the Yoast SEO plugin is a godsend. Pull up your list of keywords to target from the previous section and add them to the corresponding pages. Personally, I like to use the Yoast plugin Bulk Editor (SEO -> Tools -> Bulk Editor in your WordPress dashboard) to make these changes efficiently.

Take some time in crafting each Title Tag, though. Don’t just stuff your keywords in willy-nilly and then tack on your city and state (or region or county) at the end. Remember that in addition to conveying to Google the terms for which you want your business to be relevant, these are the phrases that your prospective customers will see when they’re searching. So make these Titles enticing for visitors as well as keyword-focused.

For example, which Title Tag would you be more likely to click on?

Option 1:

Car Insurance Agent – Luxury Car Insurance Agent – Car Insurance Agency – Portland, Oregon

Option 2:

Portland’s Top Locally-Owned Car Insurance Agency since 1954: Smith Insurance

I’d certainly choose Option 2, and most of your customers would also.

It’s also a best practice to include your target keywords in your WordPress page/post titles and other headlines. Nevertheless it’s far more important to write these for your visitors than it is to write them for Google.

The final place to use your keywords is within the text of links you use on your website (known as “anchor text”). So for example, instead of saying “click here,” you might say “click here to contact our insurance agency” to help Google gain a little more context about what services your contact page is relevant for.

The changing place of your website in Google’s Local SERP Topography

As I hinted in Part I of this series, we’re moving into a world with more place-based (mobile and voice) results and fewer website-based (desktop) results. Increasingly, Google is trying to extract as much structured information as it can from your website and place it front-and-center in the Knowledge Panel it constructs with the information from Google My Business.

This Knowledge Panel information will form the basis for voice responses from Google Home and other personal assistants. After all, listening to an assistant read an entire webpage after you asked it a question would not be much fun!

This shift is why the Crawlability section above was the longest part of this article. It’s important that your website give Google (and visitors) a strong sense of what you do and where you do it, but it’s even more important that Google can crawl that information, assimilate it, and present it in a structured format.

As a result, tactics like Schema.org markup and tools like the Yoast Local SEO Plugin that help structure information about your business are becoming that much more important. Your content is still critical, but start thinking of your website primarily as a data source for the Knowledge Graph and as a customer destination secondarily.

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Summary

  • Ensure your website is crawlable with the site:yourdomain.com search. Note the number of results.
  • Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly and Page Speed tools to ensure your website converts the most mobile visitors possible, and make it easy to contact you from the top and bottom of every page.
  • Build a unique contact page for each location that you operate and mark up your location information in Schema.org with the Yoast Local SEO Plugin.
  • Use keywords relevant to your products and services that your customers are searching for, especially in your Title Tags and internal links.
  • Continue to monitor your Knowledge Panel, and those of other businesses in your industry, for additional structured information sought by Google.

Read more: ‘Ranking your local business at Google: Introduction’ »

You would think this post would be redundant by now: people know that the meta keyword tag is useless nowadays, right? The truth is that we still see site owners using meta keywords on their website. In addition to that, people are still searching for meta keywords according to Google Trends, although there seem to be less queries than 5 years ago. That’s why we republish this post about the uselessness of meta keywords for SEO once again.

Let me give you the full history of the meta keywords tag’s demise. Already in September 2009, Google announced officially what was true for years back then: “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking”. Matt Cutts explained it in a video:

Do Yahoo! and Bing use meta keywords?

In October of that same year, 2009, at SMX East, Yahoo! announced they no longer use the meta keywords tag anymore either. This turned out to be not entirely true, as they do index them, but they won’t help you one bit.

Bing also stated in 2014:

“Today, it’s pretty clear the meta keyword tag is dead in terms of SEO value. Sure, it might have value for contextual ad systems or serve as a signal to bots plying the web looking for topics to target, but as far as search goes, that tag flat lined years ago as a booster.”

Earlier, they even implied that using them – the wrong way – could work against you, because it’s rather seen as a spam signal than a ranking signal.

So don’t waste your time on the meta keywords tag. Instead of thinking about which keywords to put in that silly tag for 5 minutes, think about your content for 5 minutes longer. Really. It’s worth it.

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But I want meta keywords!!!

By default, there is no meta keywords input field in our Yoast SEO plugin. If you use Yoast SEO and you really can’t live without them, you can turn it on though. You’ll first need to enable the advanced settings before you can change this. For a detailed explanation on how to do this, check out ‘how to enable meta keywords in Yoast SEO‘.

turn on meta keywords in yoast seo

Don’t expect me to think you’re cool though. The reality is, that if you’re trying to rank for any term that’s even only a little competitive, meta keywords won’t help. You should write engaging, meaningful content on a technically well optimized platform and get good links and social engagement. That’s what builds great rankings, meta keywords have nothing to do with it.

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

If you’re using Yoast SEO to optimize your posts and pages, it’ll ask you to fill out a focus keyword. This is the search term you want your content to rank for. Deciding on a focus keyword can be challenging. For example, if you want to optimize your content for a long tail keyword – existing of multiple words –  what is the exact key phrase you should use? Does word order matter? In this Ask Yoast, you’ll learn how to use Yoast SEO when optimizing for long tail keywords.

Stefan Junestrand has emailed us asking:

“For long tail keywords that will be searched for with equal frequency with the words in different order, which would be best practice?
a. Use one long tail focus keyword
b. Use 5 different focus keywords with one focus keyword”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Word order of your focus keyword

In the video, we help you decide on the word order of your long tail focus keyword and how to use the multiple focus keyword functionality of Yoast SEO Premium.

” So you mean for example ‘WordPress SEO’ and ‘SEO WordPress’. Which one would be best practice to use? One focus keyword for each page? Or should you combine them all into one page?

You really should combine them into one page. SEO for WordPress and WordPress SEO are basically the same thing. Of course, if you’re writing naturally, you’ll probably use both combinations already. So just write one longer page and use different word orders.

If you have Yoast SEO Premium you can have up to 5 focus keywords: try and optimize for the most common variants in word order of your long tail keyword. But don’t overdo the optimizing! It might even be better to not get green bullets for all 5 combinations, if you’re optimizing for similar combinations with just a different word order. Because then your copy would become pretty hard to read. So write a natural text, make sure that you use different versions a couple of times and you should be good.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Why should you focus on multiple focus keywords’ »

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

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

Differences between B2B and B2C

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

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

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

1. Buying process in a B2B market

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

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

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

B2B and the goal of your site

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

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

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

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

B2B sales and your web copy

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

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

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2. The complexity of products and services

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

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

Complex B2B products and your web content

Tip: Show how it works!

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

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

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

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

3. Jargon

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

Jargon and B2B Keyword research

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

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

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

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4. Size of the market

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

Niche products and SEO

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

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

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

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

5. Scale

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Content writing should be a key element of every SEO strategy. How do you make sure your blog posts have the highest chance to rank well in Google? What are the successive steps you’ll need to take? In this post, I’ll take you back to the very basics of SEO. How do you optimize a blog post?

Find that keyword

The very first step of every content SEO strategy should be keyword research. You should figure out for what search terms you want to be found. Figuring out the right keyword can be quite daunting though. You really have to get into the heads of your audience.

Read more: ‘Why every content SEO strategy should start with keyword research’ »

A word is not a topic, though. Besides a keyword (or keyphrase), you’ll need an angle, a specific story around that keyword. Read our tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog if you would like to know more about that.

Yoast is most famous for the Yoast SEO plugin, of course. Our plugin will really help you in the optimizing process. The first step is to fill out the keyword you want your post to be found for (the focus keyword). After that, the plugin will give you feedback on how to improve the SEO of your blog post. It will, for instance, check your post for these things:

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Use that keyword

If you want to rank high for a certain term, you should definitely use that term quite often in your text. That way, Google will know that your text is about that specific keyword. But don’t overdo it. Google doesn’t like over-optimized text at all. A keyword density of 2 % ( in which one in fifty words is your keyword) is great. It’s best to create a text that’s rather lengthly, we recommend a text of at least 300 words. That way, you’ll be able to use your keyword quite a number of times.

Optimize your headings

Check if your focus keyword is in your headings. The title of your post is really important. You should definitely use your keyword there. Try to use your keyword in at least one of your subheadings as well.

How about that snippet?

The snippet is the thing Google shows in the search results. It’s the title of your post and a short description. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your snippet: it shows you a preview of the snippet and allows you to easily edit the content. This is very important, as it’s the first thing your audience will read. So this piece of text will have to convince them to go to your site.

Unfortunately, we’re never sure whether Google will show that specific snippet. However, creating a kick-ass snippet preview should be part of your SEO strategy. Of course, don’t forget to use that focus keyword again!

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: what it means and how to use it’ »

Don’t forget: write an awesome post!

Optimizing your post for the search engines is something you should definitely do. But more importantly, you should make sure you write an awesome post. The topic of your post should be original, the message of your text should be appealing to your audience. On top of that, your text should be pleasant and not too difficult to read. Without making concessions to the readability of your post, you should use the tips described to optimize your blog post and make it stand out a little bit more!

Read on: ‘10 steps to an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »

 

If you want people to easily find your website, you should start by picking the right focus keywords (the keyword or keyphrase you’d like to rank for). Sometimes it can be hard to decide which keywords to optimize for. Do you have to focus on a head or a long tail keyword? Do you have to optimize your post or page for a focus keyword with or without a stop word? In this Ask Yoast we’ll explain in which case it would be better to use a stop word in a focus keyword.

Paul Lewis, a teacher at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia, emailed us asking:

“If I don’t use a stopword in my focus keyword I get a red bullet. “For instance, I use [Hotel Cimaja] instead of [Hotel in Cimaja]. Why is that so? Does it make a difference to Google?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Learn how to set up a keyword strategy for your site in our Keyword research training »

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Stop words in focus keyword

Read this transcript to learn more about using stop words in your focus keywords:

Yes, it makes a difference. It really depends on the keyword, though. But for travel related queries, where the competition is usually very high, you’ll see that there’s a different result in Google for the Hotel in Cimaja versus the Hotel Cimaja results, simply because pages are optimized differently.

So it really depends on how high the competition is, but you probably should optimize for the hotel plus location name, phrased just like that, because otherwise you won’t have a chance to rank whatsoever. Because in any hotel space you’re competing against huge sites anyway. You’re competing against the Expedias and the booking.coms of this world, so you have to optimize to your fullest extent to ever have a chance of ranking there.

What you could do though, if you’re writing about travel/hotels and you’re not ranking that well, is write about stuff related to that. Ask yourself: “What do I need to know when I’m traveling there? Or, what sort of keywords could I be searching for when I’m traveling there?” Look at all that stuff, create really unique and original content on those topics, instead of trying to rank for the same keyword that some of the most aggressively optimized sites in the world are trying to rank for.

Good luck!

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Stop words in your focus keywords?’ »

You did everything you were supposed to do. You wrote an awesome blog post, and the post actually ranks high in the search engines. Perhaps you even made it rank in a number one position. And you’re quite proud of your performance. Your deception is huge when your number 1 post doesn’t attract any traffic to your site. How’s that possible? What could be the cause for a post to rank high, but to lead to no or little traffic to your site?

Rankings and clicks

If a post or a page doesn’t attract traffic to your site, it means that people don’t click on your result in the search engines. Results that are shown highest in the search results usually get the most clicks. The result that ranks number 1 gets the most clicks, followed by numbers 2 and 3. Results lower in Google’s ranking get even fewer clicks. So, it’s counterintuitive to rank number 1 and get very little traffic. Let’s look at some causes!

1. Your search term is too specific

Ranking for [ballet shoes children very narrow feet] is much easier than ranking for [ballet shoes]. The more long tail a search term is, the easier it is to rank for that term. To set up an SEO strategy focusing on long tail keywords is a good idea in many cases. However, if you’re focusing on keywords (almost) nobody is searching for, you won’t attract much traffic to your site. You could very well rank number 1 with a post about ‘ballet shoes children very narrow feet’, but if nobody is using that search term, ranking number 1 is pretty much useless.

Before deciding upon which search term you’re going to optimize your post or page for, you should check out the search traffic for the term you’re considering. Google Trends is a very useful tool that’ll help you compare traffic for various keywords.

Have Team Yoast install and configure Yoast SEO premium for you! »

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2. Your snippet does not attract audience

Another reason why a high-ranking post does not attract traffic could be that the snippet in the search results is not appealing to your desired audience. If your snippet does not appeal to the audience, they won’t click on it. It could be that your audience is expecting something else. This could, for instance, be the case if you’re aiming to rank for new niches. Let explain this with an example:

You own a website selling arts and crafts. Your business and website are doing great. You’ve decided to expand your collection with children’s party supplies. You start blogging about it. Your angle and your site, however, is really different from all the other children’s party supply sites. This could be an advantage, but it also could be a disadvantage. If your result does not match people’s expectations, it could well lead to few clicks.

For this problem a solution exists. Check out your competition and analyze their snippets in the search results. What could you do to make your snippet meet the expectations of the audience?

3. Navigational search term

Sometimes people are searching for something really specific. This is what we call a navigational search term. People want to go to a specific site and type in the name of that site as a search query. If your website is not the site they’re looking for, people will not click on your snippet in the search result.

Up until a year ago, Yoast ranked high on the search term [Google Analytics]. We used to develop a Google Analytics plugin for WordPress (the plugin is now owned by MonsterInsights). Although we ranked second on the term [Google Analytics], we hardly got any traffic with this position. People searching for [Google Analytics] were actually navigating to the website of Google Analytics and not looking for Yoast at all.

Post ranks, no traffic?

Ranking high in Google usually leads to more traffic to your website. In some cases, however, a high position in Google does not lead to more traffic. In this post, I discussed three possible causes for such a scenario: 1. It could be that your search term is too specific and hardly anyone is looking for it; 2. Your snippet isn’t appealing enough to click on; 3. People use this specific search term to get to a site that isn’t yours. Find out what the issue is in your situation and adapt your SEO strategy to it!

Read more: ‘My bullets are green, but my post doesn’t rank’ »

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to easily optimize the text of your post. This could definitely result in higher rankings. But unfortunately, green bullets do not magically put you on top of the search results. In this post, I’ll discuss a number of possible reasons why a post doesn’t rank, even though the text has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin.

Too much competition

In most cases, the reason a post doesn’t rank on top is because there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your blogpost for Justin Bieber, chances are high you won’t rank for that term.  Too many sites and blog posts have established themselves in this niche. Your site doesn’t have the authority that some other sites do have. And a large portion of the other sites in this niche are probably also capable of writing SEO-friendly texts. Green bullets won’t help you to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive.

Read more: ‘Should you blog about Justin Bieber’ »

If you really want to rank for those highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Blog about all the nuances and little variations around the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.

Learn how to set up a keyword strategy for your site in our Keyword research training »

Keyword research training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

Technical issues

If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, it could be that there are technical issues that prevent your post from appearing in the search results. Of course, when set up right, Yoast SEO takes care of all technical issues, but you could be running a plugin that interferes with our plugin. And we’ve seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site.

Hacked?

Always make sure your site isn’t hacked! If a site is hacked, your older posts will decrease in ranking as well. New post won’t rank as easily as they used to do. This will all evolve rather slowly, depending on how much crap is published on your site, without you knowing it. This really happens!

Keep reading: ‘WordPress Security’ »

Internal linking structure

A reason for your post not to end up high in the search engines , could be because other parts of your SEO strategy are not optimized. The structure of your site – the internal linking structure – is a very important aspect of an SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high (even though your content might be awesome) are lower. Yoast SEO premium could help you with your internal linking structure. If you want to improve your site structure, you should check out our site structure training.

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

Few external links

If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if all your bullets are green. You’ll need some links from other websites. Google has to know your website exists. In order to get backlinks, you should reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. Use social media to get the word out!

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

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Green bullets, no ranking?

There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. If you optimized it correctly with Yoast SEO, the most common cause will definitely be that the competition in a niche is just too hard. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You just need to have a little patience. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!

Read more: ‘The temptation of the green bullet’ »

If you start a new site, either a blog or an online shop, you won’t rank immediately. So, what’s the first step you need to take to boost your rankings? In our view, you should always start with keyword research. Take some time to think about the words you want to be found for: which words are your audience searching for? But how do you find that out? What tools are useful? And, when you’ve found those keywords, how do you determine which ones you should focus on first? The most competitive (head), or the less competitive (long tail) keywords? In this post we’ll illustrate with a case study how to start your keyword research.

Focus on head or tail? Google it!

My cousin Sanne recently started her own online shop: Made by Mae. She’s a graphic designer and designs really cute posters, postcards and milestone cards. She asked me about SEO: where should she start? “Did you do your keyword research?” I asked. She did. She wanted to rank for the Dutch translation of [personalized poster]. And she already figured that aiming for those high-end search terms like [postcard] en [poster] would be pretty useless.

schermafbeelding-2017-01-10-om-11-39-55

Choose the right locale

Make sure to Google your specific keyword in the language that you’re using on your website. And, in the case of my cousin, make sure to use Google.nl. She’s mainly interested in selling stuff in the Netherlands, so she should only worry about ranking in the Netherlands.

But how do you know for sure? You should check the competition! Google the keywords that are the most competitive and analyze the results. Are these major companies? Companies with large marketing budgets? Then you’ll probably have a hard time ranking for these head terms. Ask yourself what the probability is that you’d be able to rank for such a term. Then, try a term that is slightly less competitive, and see what comes up. Did the probability change much?

If you do this, starting from very competitive head terms to slightly longer and less used search terms, you’ll get a pretty good idea of where your website should be able to fit in and rank. For Made by Mae, focusing on (the Dutch translation of) [postcards] and [posters] would be a bit too difficult to go after just now. [Trendy postcards] or [trendy posters] results in less competition. I would choose even less competitive search terms like [personalized trendy postcards].

Make a long list!

You should never focus on just one keyword. You should make a long, a very long list. My cousin should make a list of at least a hundred keywords. These could be variations of different keywords. As the menu of Made by Mae states she sells posters, personalized posters, postcards, milestone cards and printables. So my cousin should try to come up with keywords around these terms. For example: [cute milestone cards], [personalized milestone cards], [trendy milestone cards], [black-and-white milestone cards] and so on. Make sure to rate the competitiveness of each of your keywords.

Learn how to set up a keyword strategy for your site in our Keyword research training »

Keyword research training€ 99 - Buy now » Info

Start writing content

Blogging is a great way of creating content. My cousin could write really awesome blog post related to her products. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and she should have lots of inspiration. However, a keyword is not a subject of a blog post just yet. You’ll need a specific angle or topic for the keyword you would like to rank for.

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

Use Google trends!

If you have to choose between certain keywords you’d like to rank for, but you don’t know which one to choose, you should use Google trends. Google trends will allow you to compare the search volume of a few terms. If you want to know whether it makes sense to write about trendy postcards or about personalized postcards, Google Trends will give you your answer:

schermafbeelding-2017-01-10-om-20-16-38

Think about chances to convert

While doing your keyword research, you should already think about the chance to convert for people searching for a specific keyword. For instance: if people are specifically searching for [black-and-white milestone cards], they will be more prone to buying a set of cards than if people are searching for [milestone cards]. People searching for [black-and-white milestone cards] already know what they want, they know what they’re searching for. Once they’ll find the milestone cards on Made by Mae, they will be more eager to buy them.

People searching for long tail, specific keywords generally have a higher chance to buy something when they end up on your website. So, perhaps, you’ll generate less traffic with a post optimized for [black-and-white milestone cards], than with a post optimized for [milestone cards], but you’ll end up with more sales nevertheless.

Conclusion

Keyword research is a very important first step in SEO. And after that, you’ll have to start writing. A lot. Writing will not instantly result in higher rankings. It’ll take time. It’s a longterm SEO strategy. But it will pay off eventually!

Keep reading: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

Optimizing your site or page for words that people don’t use doesn’t make any sense. That’s why you have to do proper keyword research. You’ll have to get inside the heads of your audience and find out what words they use while searching. There should always be a keyword strategy behind the keywords you pick. Keyword strategy and keyword research are the most important elements of your SEO strategy.

In this Ask Yoast, we’ll answer a question from Jill Nadeau out of Boston, US. She asked:

“Is keyword strategy still a thing?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Learn how to set up a keyword strategy for your site in our Keyword research training »

Keyword research training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

Is keyword strategy still a thing?

Read this transcript to learn more about keyword strategy:

“If keyword strategy is still a thing, is kind of an open-ended question. Yes, keyword strategy is still a thing. Actually keyword research and keyword strategy are still the most important parts of SEO. If you don’t get that right, if you don’t get right what you’re optimizing for, then you really shouldn’t look at anything else, because why are you even optimizing?

You’re probably asking, because Google says they think more about topics and all these things. That doesn’t mean that people don’t still search for keywords. So, even though you have to think about broader topics and keyword research has become slightly harder – because you have to think about a topic better – you really, really, really need to do your keyword research well and keep doing it as you keep on optimizing your site. Because otherwise you will be optimizing
for nothing, which is a shame.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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

Read more: ‘Branding & your keyword strategy’ »