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 »

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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!

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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’ »

SEO has a somewhat questionable reputation. Why is that? At Yoast, we advise you to make an awesome website. Our SEO advice always comes down to: make sure to outrank the competition by being the best result. We actually collaborate with Google in the development of our plugin. So, why does SEO have a questionable reputation? And what about all those ‘supposed’ SEO tricks that’ll get you instant rankings? In this post, I’ll take a look at what’s an SEO fact and what’s SEO fiction!

The origin of this reputation

A lifetime ago, when Google’s algorithm wasn’t that good, you could trick your way into the search results. Putting down keywords in white (so nobody would see, but Google would crawl it) was an effective strategy back then. As was buying bulks of links from questionable sites. As Google evolved, these kinds of dirty SEO tricks started to backfire. If you’re wondering whether certain tactics of old school or blackhat SEO still pay off, just think about the following questions: does it give the user a better experience on your site? Does your website become a better result? If you can answer these questions with yes, then it’s probably a good SEO strategy. Anything that feels like a trick though, probably won’t be a good SEO strategy in the long run. So, let’s look at some SEO statements and find out if they’re fact or fiction!

SEO: fact or fiction?

Fact or fiction 1: Content is King

Content is a very important aspect of any SEO strategy. After all, Google crawls texts and determines the ranking of your site on the quality of your texts. High-quality content also leads to lower bounce rates and more social media attention.

SEO fact: Content is King

Fact or fiction 2: Get as many links as possible

While backlinks are definitely important for your SEO strategy, you should be rather selective in which kinds of backlinks you’d want to attract to your website. You shouldn’t buy large amounts of links. You shouldn’t exchange links. You shouldn’t use any automated programs to get links. You shouldn’t do guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content. You shouldn’t have links that are unrelated to the topic of your website. You shouldn’t have links from sites that have no real content. You shouldn’t have links from spammy sites whose only purpose is to advertise for gambling, viagra and porn (unless your website is about gambling, viagra and porn). You should never pay for links. If you choose to go overboard on link building, you’ll risk a penguin penalty and loose your rankings in Google.

SEO fiction: Get as many links as possible

Fact or fiction 3: Keyword density should be sky high

Some people try to put as many keywords in their texts as possible. They hope that Google will notice the amount of keywords they’re using and therefore will rank the text highest in the search results. However, their text will become unreadable. So they shouldn’t do that! It’ll definitely backfire. Never write content that’s created for the search engines. Always write content with a real audience in mind. Invest in high-quality content, that’ll generate long term stable traffic to your website.

SEO fiction: keyword density should be sky high

Fact or fiction 4: You don’t need high-end technical skills to do SEO

Technical SEO definitely is an important element of an SEO strategy. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of code (it could even be great fun). However, if you’re using WordPress and our Yoast SEO plugin, your technical SEO is pretty much covered. Our plugin is designed to take care of all the technical aspects of your SEO strategy.

SEO fact: You don’t need high-end technical skills to do SEO

Fact or fiction 5: SEO is all tricks

At Yoast, we propose an SEO strategy we refer to as holistic SEO. You should develop a long-term SEO strategy focusing on all aspects of website optimization in order to be the best result. You should write awesome content, do great PR and social, make sure your website is properly secured and create a superb User Experience. And of course your website should have technical excellence and an awesome site structure. That’s no trick. That’s just a whole lot of hard work.

SEO fiction: SEO is all tricks

Conclusion

The final SEO fiction actually says it all. SEO is not all tricks. Not at all. SEO, in our view, is a longterm strategy, focusing on getting and keeping those high rankings in the search engines. It is a lot of work, but it will definitely pay off in the long run!

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

Ranking in your own country is one thing, ranking around the globe is quite another thing though. It poses other challenges. Let’s say you’re organizing trips for tourists who visit your country, how to reach those tourists? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll explain what’s essential for your global SEO strategy.

We received the following question from Thushi from SriLankaHolidayIdeas.com:

“Our website ranks very well in Sri Lanka, however we’d like to rank globally. We’ve already specified “Unlisted” in Google Search Console with the intention of ranking worldwide. On our Facebook page 75% of likes is from Sri Lanka. Could this be an issue?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Using links to rank globally

Most importantly, if you want people from all over the globe to find you, you’ll need links from all over the world. Read the transcript of the video to learn more:

“Your Facebook likes are probably not the issue, because Google can’t see most of Facebook, so it can’t see where your likes are coming from. Nevertheless, if your Facebook likes come from Sri Lanka, your backlinks might as well. So Google may think that, because most links that point to your site are from Sri Lanka, you’re relevant to Sri Lanka. So, you should get links from all over the world, pointing to your site, that tell Google: “Hey, we write about Sri Lanka, we’ve got cool ideas”, and that will help you rank in the rest of world.

What’s probably also the case, is that for your specific keywords, the competition in Sri Lanka might not be very high. Whereas the competition in the rest of the world for those keywords – we guess they’ll be related to Sri Lanka, vacation, holiday – will get a lot more competition. So, you’ll need a lot more links to rank well in the US, Europe etc. This means you’ll really need to start working on your link building and your PR internationally, so that you’ll get links from international sites, pointing to your site. That will help you get better rankings across the globe.

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 on: ‘Link building from a holistic SEO perspective’ »

How does Google work? What does Google actually do? For many of you this will be fairly old news. But for all the SEO newbies: let me explain (in easy to understand prose) what Google actually does. Understanding Google could really help you create an SEO strategy that works!

How does Google work?

Search engines like Google follow links. They follow links from one web page to another. Google consists of a crawler, an index and an algorithm. Google’s crawler follows the links on the web. It goes around the internet 24/7 and saves the HTML- version of all pages in a gigantic database, called the index. This index is updated if the Google crawler comes by your website again and finds new or revised web pages. The new version of this page is saved. Depending on the traffic on your site and the amount of changes you make on your website, Google crawlers come around more or less often.

For Google to know of the existence of your site, there first has to be a link from another site – one that is already in the index – to your site. If crawlers follow that link it will lead to the first crawler-session and the first time your site is saved in the index. From then on, your website could appear in Google’s search results.

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

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Google’s secret algorithm

After indexing your website, Google can show it in the search results. Google tries to match a certain search query with web pages that it has indexed. To do so Google has a specific algorithm that decides which pages are shown in which order. How this algorithm works is a secret. Nobody knows exactly which factors decide the ordering of the search results.

Google’s algorithm isn’t static. It changes regularly. The factors that determine the ordering and the importance of the different factors change very often. Although the algorithm is secret, Google does tell us which things are important. We don’t know how important though, and we don’t know whether Google communicates about all factors. Testing and experimenting gives us a relatively good feel for the important factors and changes in these factors. We incorporate these factors in our SEO plugin and tell you about it in our many blog posts.

Google’s results page

Google’s results page – also known as an SERP– shows about 7 or 10 links to sites which fit your search the best (according to Google). We refer to these results as the organic search results. If you click to the second page of the result page, more results are shown. The further down the results you are, the less likely someone is going to find your site.
Above the 10 links on the first page are paid links, most of the time. These links are ads; people have paid Google to put these links at the top of the site when people search for a specific term. Prices for these ads vary greatly, depending on the competitiveness of the search term.

The value of links for search engines

It’s very important to have a basic understanding of how Google and most other search engines use links. The number of links pointing to a page is used to determine how important that page is. So, the more links a specific site has, the more important search engines think it is. Both internal links (coming from the same website) as well as external links (from other websites) could help in the ranking of a webpage in Google. Some links are more important than others, though. Links from websites that have a lot of incoming links themselves are generally more important than links from small websites with only a few incoming links.

The importance of links actually was something that lead to active link building. As long as you are collecting links that are useful and logical, link building can be a good SEO strategy. But if you are collecting (or worse buying) shady links, Google may punish you for that. Read more about the dangers of link building in this article.

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

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SEO and Google

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing sites to (attempt to) make them appear in a high position in the organic search results. In order to do so, SEO tries to shape a website according to Google’s algorithm. Although Google’s algorithm remains secret, over a decade of experience in SEO has resulted in a pretty good idea about the important factors.

We monitor all communications by Google about (changes in) the algorithm and we test what actually works in the search engines. At Yoast, we advocate holistic SEO. Your SEO strategy should never feel like a trick. Google wants to show the user the result that fits his or her search query best. If you want to appear high in the results for that specific search term, make sure your website fits that search term.

Read more: ‘How to write a high quality and SEO friendly blog post’ »

As you might know, links from other websites are an important ranking factor. But you might wonder how to get those quality links. What SEO tactics should you use? First, let us tell you one thing about the SEO value of links: quality often beats quantity. One link from a high ranking site can do more for you than lots of links from less successful websites. You’ll learn how we found that out in this post.

In this Ask Yoast we’ll answer the following question:

“Nowadays, what tactics should I be using for my blog to obtain quality relevant links?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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SEO tactics for getting quality links

Can’t watch the video? Read the transcript here:

“Well, to be honest these tactics haven’t changed all that much. If you were doing tactics that were slightly shady before, stop doing those. Get rid of all of that and start thinking about: “How do I get quality links?” Quality links are links that point to your site that actually lead to traffic from that site to your site.

So, you should think about: “Who should write about me? Would their visitors actually find something meaningful for them on my blog? Whom am I writing about? Would that person like to link back to me? Whom should I reach out to? Which blogs do I like and frequent? Should I comment on those posts maybe, to lead people from the comments section to my own blog?”

All these things haven’t changed all that much. Really think about: “Where would I like to get coverage, and how am I going to get that coverage?” It’s a lot like PR. If you think about how PR people do that, then maybe you’ll get to some very interesting ideas about how you can get your own backlinks, and get the good ones.

I’d like to stress one thing, it’s probably not important to think about the quantity, it’s far more important to think about the quality of your links. When we, at a certain point in time, got one link from the Guardian to yoast.com, our traffic increased in a way that nothing else has ever matched. That one link did more for us than a whole a lot of other things.

These types of links are the ones that you’d really want to go after. What is the biggest source that could possibly link to you? And how could you get that link? Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we try to help you out with your SEO issues! Are you in doubt what’s best for your site’s SEO? We’ll come to the rescue! Just send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘6 steps to a successful link building strategy’ »

If you’re starting with an (eCommerce) site you might have a lot of content that’s already available in PDF files: product brochures, datasheets, pricing information and so on. So some people might think: why not upload these PDF files and link to them? There are some disadvantages to showing PDF files on your site though. We’ll discuss some of them in this Ask Yoast, while answering a question from Stijn Vogels from Antwerp, Belgium. He asked:

“In my current mission I’m confronted with many links directing to PDF files instead of html pages. There are some clear disadvantages of PDF files, but I was also wondering if there are any risks. What risks do links to PDF files pose?”

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion!

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Risks of links to PDF files?

Read the transcript of the video here:

“There’s no real risk in terms of links to PDF files. But PDF files are generally just not as useful as web pages. They indeed have some disadvantages: you can’t have easy links on them, you can’t make them as interactive, you can’t track them and you don’t really know what the user is doing, when he is looking at a PDF file.

If you can turn that into a web page, you can see what users are doing, and you can guide them to other content on your site, or make them convert more easily (buy something, subscribe to your newsletter etc). That becomes a whole lot more useful, than just having a still bunch of PDF files on your site.

So my suggestion is, if you have the choice, to always use web pages instead of PDF files. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we’ll take your SEO question! Do you have a pressing SEO question about your site? Let us help you out! You might get a personal answer on video!

Read more: ‘27 tips for a better shop’ »

Backlinks to your website usually contribute to your rankings. So generally you’d be happy to get lots links to your posts and pages. But what if you get lots of links from one site? Would Google consider that as suspicious, and could you therefore be penalized?

In this Ask Yoast we’ll take a question from Gabriel Heffes of Alberta Home Services:

“I recently had a post on Tumblr that was reblogged and resulted in 9000 links to my page, making Tumblr and that post the most link sending post. Will these thousands of links cause a Penguin penalty and hurt my rankings?”

In the video below we’ll explain whether all those links could result in a penalty or not!

 

Are backlinks from Tumblr dangerous?

Not able to watch the video? You can read the transcript here:

“The honest answer is: no. This is actually a good thing, not a bad thing. Google knows how Tumblr works. It can see that these links are not bought or in any other way bad. So don’t worry about them. Celebrate the fact that you’ve got so many links on Tumblr! And make sure you’ll create another post like this, because it will actually help in your ranking. Good luck!”

Got stuck optimizing your site? We love to help you out! In the series Ask Yoast we’ll answer your SEO question. Don’t hesitate and send us your question!

Read more: ‘6 tips to a successful link building strategy’ »

We understand that, at times, you might be tempted to buy links. Who doesn’t want to start ranking quickly? And, would it really harm your site, even if it’s from a “trustworthy” link selling site?

Watch this video and know why you should never buy links!

Why you should never buy links

Can’t watch the video? Here’s a transcript!

“Well, first of all, because buying links is cheating and we don’t cheat!

Second of all, you might think a site looks trustworthy, but if you can buy links from them, who else can buy links from them? And, who else will they be selling links to, so that your link might not really be that worthwhile anymore? So, how do you know who they’ve already sold links to, and how that knowledge might get to Google?

If you’re buying links, then at some point, you’re going to get caught! If that happens you’re going to lose everything you have. Just because you thought you could speed up yourself to the top of the rankings. It doesn’t work, I’ve seen it a thousand times, it’s not worth it. Don’t buy links!

In the series Ask Yoast we answer your question, on video! So send your SEO question to ask@yoast.com and finally get that answer!

Links are important for SEO. And link building should therefore definitely be part of your holistic SEO strategy. But more importantly, link building should be part of your growth strategy. Links should help generate traffic to your site directly. In this post, I’ll describe 6 important steps for a successful link building strategy, the holistic SEO way.Link building is part of your growth strategy

Link building as part of your growth strategy

Links will help your pages to rank higher in Google search results, this post explains why. That’s perfectly true. That, however, is not the only thing links do. Backlinks will also help in getting more (referral) traffic to your site via those links. When you determine your link building strategy you should keep in mind: the reason links were invented was to send you off to pages you might enjoy as well. Use link building as a strategy for the growth of your website audience and place links on sites that will actually generate traffic to your own site.

A good link, first and foremost, drives traffic to your site.

Step 1: get to know your audience

If you want your audience to grow, you need to find out how to expand your audience or how to find a new audience. You should therefore know two things: who is my audience right now and what does my ideal audience look like. At Yoast.com for example, we started out with an audience mainly consisting of (web) developers, but we aspired to reach an audience consisting of a more general group of WordPress users (whilst keeping our initial developers audience). We adapted our content to this new group of people, but in order to reach these ‘new’ audiences, links from other websites to our new (less nerdy) content were also important. You should do some research in order to get to know your audience.

Step 2: make a list of websites that appeal to your desired audience

If you have a clear picture of your present and desired audience in mind, you can make a list of websites that could possibly help you in reaching your new audience. Find those websites that already appeal to your desired audience. Links from these websites could help you to reach your new audience.

Step 3: write amazing content

In order to get other websites to link to your content, your content simply has to be amazing. And more importantly, it should appeal to the audience you’re aspiring to make your readers or buyers. Make sure your pieces and articles are well structured and nicely written.

Step 4: match content to websites

If you have written an awesome blog post, you should dive into the list you made as part of your growth strategy (step 2). Choose sites from that list that could possibly link to the article you have written. If you have a long tail keyword approach (writing about small and niche subjects) the number of websites which will be fit to link to your blog post will be small. Make an effort to find those websites that really fit the specific topic of your blog post or article. These websites will probably be very willing to link, as your blog post really fits their content. More importantly, visitors that will come to your website following that link will really be interested in the topic of your article (making chances of conversion and recurring visits much higher).

Step 5: reach out

If you’ve really put an effort in both writing content as well as finding websites that fit the content of your article, you should contact the website you would like to link to your site. Tell them about the content or product and ask them to write about it and link to it. Most people will be happy to write about your product if this means they’ll receive it for free! You can use email, but in many cases Twitter or even a phone call is a great way to contact people as well. Make sure to reach out in a personal way, never send out automated emails.

Step 6: use social media!

If your content is original and well structured, you’ll be able to reach new audiences (and get links) by using social media as well. Make sure you tweet about your blog, perhaps send some tweets to specific persons of whom you think they may like your article. Facebook is also a great way to get exposure for your articles (maybe… even promote it a bit?). And as many people like, tweet and share your articles, you’re bound to receive some more links as well.

Conclusion: link building is a growth strategy

A successful link building strategy should always be aimed to bring a new, aspired audience to your website. A (welcome) side effect will then be a higher ranking in Google. As long as you consider link building as a way to reach out to other sites in order to get more visitors from that site, you’re doing it the ‘right’ way.

A lot of link building strategies can backfire, causing more damage than doing good. If you want to improve your ranking in the long term, using what we call a holistic SEO strategy, you should definitely avoid certain link building tactics. In this post, I’ll describe link building DON’TS: tactics you should most definitely NOT use.

Link building don'ts: beware of Google Penguin penalties

Risky link building tactics

In the old days, link building meant putting links on as much external pages as possible, often by buying or trading links. Since Google Penguin these tactics have become a risky SEO strategy. If your link building tactics include spamming, your site risks a Google Penalty and could be banned from Google’s results completely. Placing a lot of links will probably help the ranking of your site for a short while, but probably not in the long run. I suspect most of you will know quite some of the link building tactics you must definitely not apply. I’ll sum up the most obvious link building DON’TS and will then discuss some less well known – but equally important – DON’TS.

Obvious link building DON’TS

You should not buy large amounts of links. You should not exchange links. You should not use any automated programs to get links. You should not do guest blogging with very thin and off-topic content. You should not comment on blogs or forums if your only purpose is to leave a link in the comment. You should not over optimize your anchor text. You should not have links that are unrelated to the topic of your website. You should not have links from sites that have no real content. You should not have links from spammy sites whose only purpose is to advertise for gambling, viagra and porn (unless your website is about gambling, viagra and porn).

Not all linking to the homepage

You should make sure to get links to different pages on your website and not solely to your homepage. If you only – or mainly – receive links to your homepage, your link building will look spammy. Of course, if someone is writing about your brand, a link to your homepage is appropriate. But if a website writes about products or about news of your company, they usually link to your product, news or blog pages. That is just the natural way people link to other pages. You should make sure your link building strategy resembles the natural way people link to websites. Extra benefit: linking to a more specific page will probably lead to a better conversion on your website! So you should work on getting links for important product pages, or for your cornerstone content pages. Get links to those pages where the deal is closed! It will get your website a trustworthy link profile and will increase the conversion at the same time!

Pay for specific links? We say: don’t!

Another link building DON’T is buying links. You probably all know that buying links in large bulks from companies claiming to get you ranked fast is not something we would promote at Yoast. But what about a link from an individual company? From a high quality website right in your niche? Is het wrong to buy one link from such a company? How will Google ever find out about that?

Google won’t know about one link you buy from one company. Still, we would recommend not to do so. If this company has sold one link to you,  they could sell more links to more people. And although one link will not alarm Google, as the amount of questionable links on a website rises, the risk of getting hit by Penguin or a manual penalty rises as well.

Don’t recycle your content on different sites

A way to get links is to write articles about your company or about your products and try to get these articles published on other sites. Beware to not publish the same content on different sites though! An article in which sentences and paragraphs are switched and a few words are altered still remains duplicate content to the original article. Especially if you repeat this trick several times. Spinning content is not creating new content. It is a link building trick and it could backfire. Write the articles for the audience of the website you’re sending your piece to. Yes, that is a lot of work. No one said link building is easy…

Don’t forget social media

If you’re building links, do not leave out social media! Social media should definitely be included in your link building strategy, although it is not totally clear to what extent links from social media actually help in your ranking. If you’re receiving links from other websites all of a sudden, it would be extremely weird if you would not receive some from social media sites as well. That will not add up and could make you look spammy in Google’s eyes. So alongside your attempts to receive links from appropriate websites, invest in getting shares, tweets and likes on social media platforms as well.

Don’t fake!

Your link building strategy shouldn’t look natural, it should be natural! Make sure your link building isn’t fake. Links should be placed because the link could be beneficial to the user of a website. Links should fit the content of the page they’re placed on. Your link building strategy should be part of a marketing strategy aimed at telling people about your company, your website or your products. It should never be aimed at getting as much quality links as possible.

Conclusion: links should always be useful

From a holistic SEO perspective, links should be useful for the user of a website. A link should be there because it means something, because the text in which the link is embedded refers to that specific page. If a link is merely there for Google and won’t receive any clicking, the link probably shouldn’t be there.
Links are meant to be clicked on. Link building should therefore be about creating links that are useful for and clicked on by the audience of a website! In my next post, I’ll give you some tips on doing link building the Yoast way.