As you might know, Google is rolling out mobile-first indexing as we speak. But what does that mean for your ranking? Should you be worried? Should you do anything? Last week, Google explained a bit more about mobile-first indexing. In this post, I’ll talk you through five things you need to know about mobile-first indexing.

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Mobile-first indexing

Last March, Google announced that they were going to start with mobile-first indexing. But what does that entail? It means that from now on, Google will base what it places in the index based on the mobile version of your site, whereas they used to index the desktop version of your site first. This switch is made because more and more searches come from a mobile device and to give those users a better experience, Google decided that it was time to prioritize mobile results. It is important to note that the mobile-first index is not a separate index, Google has only one index from which it serves the results.

1. Do not panic!

More and more sites are in the mobile index. That does not mean that anything big is happening. In fact, it probably doesn’t do anything to your rankings. If your site is in the mobile-first index, you’ll get a notice in your Google Search Console.

If your website is in the mobile-first index, Google will determine by the content available on your mobile site how you will rank — both on the desktop as well as on mobile. This sounds pretty big, but for most WordPress sites it’ll have minimal consequences. If you think about it, most WordPress sites have a responsive design. This means that both mobile and desktop display the same content. You’ll have nothing to worry about in this case.

If you have different websites for mobile and desktop and your mobile website has far less content – you do have something to worry about. 

2. Do a mobile friendliness test. Ranking without mobile is going to be hard…

You do not have to have a mobile site to be in the mobile-first indexing, as Google will index desktop sites as well. But, it’s going to be hard to rank if your site is not mobile friendly. So there’s work to do for all of you who have not yet have a mobile-friendly site.

So what do you need to do? Check out Google’s mobile friendliness test and check whether or not your site is mobile friendly. In our experience, this is a minimum requirement. If your site does not pass this test, your mobile version is bad.

3. Think about UX on mobile

A mobile website needs a different design than a desktop version to appeal to your audience. Your screen is tiny. Google explained last week that hamburger or accordion menus are perfectly fine to use. These kinds of menus make sense; they help a mobile user to browse through your website. Putting content behind a tab to make the mobile experience better is also totally fine.

Read more: ‘10 ways to improve mobile UX’ »

4. Write mobile-friendly

Reading from a screen is hard. And reading from a mobile screen is even harder than reading from a big screen. To attract a mobile audience, you’ll need to have mobile-friendly copy. This means short sentences and compact paragraphs. You need to make sure your font on your mobile site is large and clear enough, and you need to make sure to use enough whitespaces.

Keep reading: ‘Copywriting for mobile’ »

5. Check out those mobile snippets

Is your audience mainly mobile? Do they come from the mobile search results to your page? Or does most of your organic traffic come from the desktop SERP’s? Make sure to check this in your Google Analytics.

If your search traffic is mostly from mobile Search Result Pages, make sure to optimize your mobile snippet in our snippet preview.

Mobile snippet preivew

Conclusion on mobile-first indexing

Don’t panic about the mobile-first index Google is rolling out. If your website has a responsive design, your content will be similar on both desktop and mobile versions. If so, the mobile-first indexing will have little consequences for your ranking.

Do take some time to evaluate the mobile version of your website. Check out its mobile parity — are your desktop and mobile site equal? Is your design good enough? Or could you improve? Are the buttons large enough to tap? What about your content? Could you make your text more readable for a mobile audience? Making sure your website has a kick-ass mobile experience is something you need to get started on. This will make a difference in your rankings shortly.

Read on: ‘How to improve your mobile site’ »

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You might have heard the term before: mobile parity. With, as a subset of that, content parity. Perhaps “One Web” triggers some kind of recognition? It all comes down to one thing: is your mobile site equal to your desktop site? In this article, I’ll give you some pointers on why you should check that and a number of things that influence the presence or absence of mobile parity.

What is mobile parity?

We talk about mobile parity when we compare a desktop site to a mobile site. Are both similar, or even better, basically the same? Does your mobile site resemble the desktop site, or are there differences? Think about the goal of your website and why it matters so much to have this parity. Let’s go over a number of things that relate to this mobile parity.

Content is king

Yes, content is king. And it doesn’t matter if someone is visiting your mobile site or desktop site. They are looking for specific information or a specific product, so you better make sure content is the same on both. It’s common use to hide some larger images on a mobile device or put some more content behind tabs (which is OK for Google, don’t get me wrong). It speeds up rendering of the mobile content, which will only help both users and Google. But the end result of that mobile optimization should not interfere with the end goal of your desktop site. It’s the same. So in regards to content, mobile parity matters. 

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Consistent branding on all devices

Looking at the design of your website, you need to make sure if it sends the same “message” on every device. We’ve seen fantastic desktop sites that have a mobile version that has been very toned down. As with AMP, I don’t mind removing clutter and focusing on what needs focus (top tasks), but both websites need to share the same “look and feel”.

The same goes for, for instance, your page titles. If you have different page titles on your mobile site and your desktop site, make sure they align. If your site is responsive, this will be no problem, but there are still a lot of websites that maintain a separate mobile site (why!?). The same will go for Progressive Web Apps and similar developments. If the content structure aligns with your desktop website, make sure other things align as well. There’s more.

Mobile-first!

If you have no clue what mobile-first means, read up first. If Google starts to rank your website based on your mobile website in the first place, there might be work to do. A lot of website owners, web designers, web agencies etcetera have been creating and selling mobile sites as an extra to a desktop site. “See how this website looks on your computer screen and how it gradually slims down to your mobile device”, will be a sentence of the past.

Mobile parity is important, especially with the mobile-first index just around the corner.

We need to set up a mobile site that folds out to a desktop site instead. Quality matters, contents matters, design, and branding matter. In Dutch, we have a saying “the soup isn’t always eaten as hot as it is served“, meaning that measures might be less severe than announced. Perhaps Google’s mobile first “threat” isn’t as strict as it may seem, but you’d better be prepared, right. So make sure your mobile website covers all bases your desktop site covers, with the same quality look and feel. Ask yourself: If you wouldn’t have a desktop site, would you still be able to get the same conversion/traffic/engagement results on your website as you currently do?

Internal links

In everything that relates to mobile parity, internal links seem to surface in my mind as a point of attention. We hide things, remove things, change things when making our website responsible. We kill a sidebar, reduce the number of footer links, might even change our menu. All these actions have an effect on the number of internal links a page has.

Internal links influence SEO, just like external links to your website do. They play an important part in setting up cornerstone content and most other content strategies. It’s your site structure that you change with every one of those changes. When Google flips the switch and your mobile site becomes most important, you might ruin that entire structure just because of the fact that your site lacks mobile parity.

It’s not just the visual stuff

Especially when your website isn’t responsive, other issues may arise. How about a 301 redirect on your desktop that is forgotten on your mobile site? I can’t stress enough that I’d still prefer a responsive website over other solutions. It simply makes sure things like this are handled properly. Think canonical links, robots meta tags, etc. You don’t want to go wrong here.

I hope I have given you some food for thought for your own website. Mobile parity is something you need to check every now and then, but definitely now as well, to make sure your mobile visitors and Google aren’t missing out on anything. Prevent that your focus on desktop doesn’t ruin your rankings.

Mobile parity audit

Moz has written a nice article that guides you through the process of a mobile parity audit. Read that article as well and see how similar your mobile and desktop websites really are!

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

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You might have heard us say it before: the UX of your site is essential for SEO. But what is UX? And why is it important for SEO? In this article, we’ll explain what it is and why you shouldn’t forget working on it if you want to rank high in Google. On top of that, we’ll shortly give you some pointers what to do to keep the users of your website satisfied.

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What is UX?

UX stands for User eXperience. As you might have figured, it’s all about how users experience a product. This can be a website, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be an app, a mobile phone or any other physical product that you can use, even a milk carton. It’s all about how someone feels when using a particular product. Does the product make you feel excited or happy, is it a joy to use it, does it help you effortlessly achieve what you’ve been aiming for? Or does it make you feel angry and frustrated because it doesn’t work or look the way you expected it to?

UX or usability?

UX and usability are sometimes used interchangeably. They’re both used to describe the ease with which a visitor uses your site. However, UX is often considered to be broader than usability. If a website is very usable – or user-friendly – visitors will be able to find or do what they want to do easily. A great user experience involves more, for example, esthetics. A website can be straightforward to use, but boring at the same time. This means the usability is excellent, but the user experience could be improved.

For instance, the illustrations of our blog posts are not necessary to improve usability. However, they do contribute to the experience users have on our site. I’m quite a fan of the drawings our illustrators Erwin and Tim make, and I hope they make you think or smile too. These images contribute to the UX of our site. Without them, you would experience our site differently. This way, UX can be part of a branding strategy, even more than usability.

Why is it important for SEO to improve UX?

So why should improving the usability and UX of your site be part of your SEO strategy? Google, or other search engines, want to provide people with the best result for their query. The best result does not only mean the best answer, but it also means the best experience. For instance, if you’re looking for the answer to “What is keyword research?” Google wants to give you the best answer in a swift, pleasant and secure way. So even if you’ve written an excellent answer in a post, but your site is slow, a mess or unsafe, Google won’t consider your post the best answer.

How does Google know?

Google uses different methods to make an educated guess about how users experience your site. They look at elements like site speed – there’s almost nothing more annoying than a page that takes ages to load -, mobile friendliness, the way you’ve structured your content and the internal and external linking of your pages. Lots of high-quality links to your web page probably indicate people had a pleasant experience with it, right?

In addition to that, Google uses user signals to find out how visitors experience your website. User signals are behavioral patterns that Google sees on your site. If a lot of people leave your website very quickly, they might not have found what they’re looking for. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, read Annelieke’s post on bounce rate to find out which. Some other user signals are the time spent on a page and how often people return to your website. If these are high, visitors most likely enjoy your site or find it useful. You can check these kinds of statistics for your site with Google Analytics and other website analysis tools.

It’s no coincidence that the factors mentioned above are important both for UX and SEO. Google tries to grasp how humans experience a website. That’s why a positive experience on your site can contribute to your rankings. If you want to learn more about this, you should read Michiel’s post on the relation between SEO and UX.

Holistic SEO

So should you work on usability and UX just for search engines? I think you can guess our answer to that… At Yoast, we advocate holistically looking at your website. This means you’re striving to make your website excellent in many ways: great content, easy to use – also on mobile – and secure. You’re making these changes for your visitors. In the end, it’s the user who’s going to buy your products, come to your event or subscribe to your newsletter.

Where to start?

As always, start by thinking about the goal of your website and specific pages. What do you want visitors to do on your site? Buy stuff? Read your articles? Donate money to your charity? The purpose of your website or a specific page on your site should be on the top of your mind when you’re making improvements. Your design and content should support this goal. Having a clear goal in mind will also help you prioritize the improvements for your site.

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If you want to improve the UX on your site also try to look at it from a user’s perspective. Ask yourself some questions – and be honest:

Most people develop blind spots if they work a lot on their site. You should, therefore, take the opportunity to ask people to evaluate your site, whenever you can! Try to get people from your target group to test your site and ask them if it worked as they expected it to. You can also use questionnaires on your site, or, if you don’t want to bother them too much, use an exit intent question and ask them why they’re leaving your site. Another option is to do some A/B testing to find out which design of your page gives the best results.

So, no excuses anymore. Start working on the UX of your site, and you might boost your rankings too!

Read more: ‘How to perform an SEO audit. Part 1: Content SEO & UX’ »

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We’re all ready for a new year of increasing sales, lifting engagement and giving our website the best effort possible. It only seems right to give you a three-step rocket of SEO quick wins, to kick-start your website for 2018. In this post, I will show you three things you can do right now to improve your website for your visitors, and for Google in the process. Let’s dive right in with number one.

#1 Optimize speed

No matter if you want to improve your mobile website or your desktop website, speed is something you want to monitor and improve all the time. These are fast times, and speed is definitely what you want to optimize for.

In a simple breakdown of speed optimization, we have images, browser caching, and script optimization. Google PageSpeed will tell you that, Pingdom will tell you that. Gzip Compression is the fourth one, but that should be enabled by default in my book. More on compression here. Let’s look at the other three.

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File size optimization

Optimizing your file size is an important part of image SEO, so let’s start there. There are a few ways to approach this:

  • Optimize the image file size in Photoshop (or any other image edit program you use). Usually, just exporting the image in a lower quality will already do the trick. I usually check whether reducing the quality to around 80% of the original still gives me a crisp image.
  • Download an application like ImageOptim or any of these applications and further optimize your file size before uploading.
  • Last but not least, make sure that the image dimensions of the image you use, fit the image ‘space’ that you reserved for it on the webpage. Don’t display a 1200×400 pixels photo as a 300×100 pixels image by adding CSS or whatever.

Browser caching

Browser caching is the way your browser stores files of a website, for instance the logo you see at the top of our website, so it doesn’t have to load them from the internet every time you visit another page of our website. This obviously saves time. There are many ways to go about this, but the easiest is probably (if you are using a WordPress site) using a plugin. Most speed optimization plugins support this browser caching and most set them right time for you. Among some of my favorite speed plugins are WP SuperCache, which is free, and WP Rocket, which is a premium plugin. For more on browser caching, visit this page.

Optimize script handling

You can load a gazillion JavaScript (JS) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files to enhance your website, but in the end all these extra files just slow your website down. Please focus on these steps to optimize your script handling:

  1. Are you sure you need that enhancement? JS and CSS usually target design and user experience. In some cases, you just don’t need that enhancement. Like JS and CSS loaded for sliders, for instance. There are alternatives to sliders that work better and don’t require extra files.
  2. Is there a way to reduce the file size of these scripts / styles? We call this process ‘minifying’. We have an Ask Yoast about it. Google has some great pointers on how to approach this. Simple scripts and handy websites can help you minify your files, for instance by stripping comments. Most platforms have plugins or extensions that help with this. For instance, Magento has the Fooman Speedster (free and paid) for that.
  3. Is it possible to combine a number of these scripts into one file? That way, there only has to be one call to the server to retrieve all the scripts. Again, there are plugins for that, but if you have small pieces of JS, you might as well combine these yourself. Of course, the advent of HTTP/2 changes some of these optimization practices. Test this!

#2 Mobile optimization

It’s tempting to copy our ultimate guide to mobile SEO here, but let’s focus on the quick wins. You need to focus on mobile SEO these days, to be ready for Google’s mobile-first index. Google will start to determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of a site, only taking your desktop site into account after that. So, let’s get that mobile version up and running, right?

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Task-based design

Open your mobile website. Imagine you are a fresh, new user of your website. What would that person want to do here and is your site ready for that? Focus on a task-based design. If we are on a mobile website, we might need opening hours or an address. Just the other day, I purchased tickets for the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum on my mobile phone. Saved a buck and didn’t have to get in line for tickets. I did this, walking from my car to the entrance. One needs to be able to do these basic tasks without any problem. Ask yourself what the four, perhaps five main goals of a visitor on your website are and make sure these can be done on your mobile website.

Performance-based design

Are you loading any huge images on your site? Do people have to scroll for ages to read the good stuff you offer them? On a mobile website, we want to get in and get out as fast as possible – unless it’s, for instance, a news website. Loading time is a factor on a mobile site, especially with mobile connections usually being slower than most desktop connections. Make sure your design and content don’t depend on large images too much. And yes, there are exceptions to that rule. If I visit a photographer’s website, I know beforehand that I am in for longer loading times. I want crisp images and that is the price I pay. Optimize to an acceptable level for your target audience.

Write great content

This goes for mobile and desktop versions of your site: they need great content. A quick win for mobile content is to add a to-the-point first paragraph. If you tell your visitor what’s on your page, they can decide for themselves if they want to scroll down or not. It helps user experience to do this.

And of course, you’ll need to write awesome content after that paragraph as well. You still need to do keyword research, set up a great site structure and decide on cornerstone content. But you can imagine that to be a slightly lengthier process, and we’re talking quick wins here :)

#3 Serve your content in the right format

There are so many ways to serve your content to Google, Facebook and your visitors. Your task for 2018 is definitely to investigate which formats you should invest in. Some take a bit more time to implement; others can be added to your website by the push of a button, like with a plugin. Let’s go over a few important ones.

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Better social sharing: Open Graph

Forget about Twitter Cards for now, as Twitter has a fallback to Open Graph. So add Open Graph to your website if you haven’t done this already. It’s like a social summary of your website. For our homepage, it reads among other things:

<meta property="og:title" content="SEO for everyone • Yoast" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Yoast helps you with your website optimization, whether it be through our widely used SEO software or our online SEO courses: we're here to help." />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://yoast.com/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Yoast" />

There’s a page / site title and summary plus link, which tells Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter all they need to know to create a great post on your visitor’s timeline. You can add an og:image to create a richer experience. Be sure to add this. Again, use a plugin like Yoast SEO for TYPO3 to automate the process (and add these Twitter Cards along with Open Graph in no time).

Quick reads on other platforms: AMP

Facebook links to your AMP article if possible. Ever found yourself reading an article in Google? Might be AMP as well. Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP, aim to strip your website to the bare necessities to deliver your reader the best mobile experience they can get. If they want to read your article, AMP will give ’em just your article in a basic design. If you want to check a certain product, AMP will strip the store to deliver a focused design. A bad thing? I think not. Every way you can help your visitor get a better experience, increases the chance of them coming back to your content / site. It might increase sales, because it’s so focused. Go read up on AMP and get your site ready. Again: plugins.

Tell Google what your page is about: Schema.org

I will end this list of quick SEO wins with something we have been telling you about quite often in the past year: add schema.org to your website. Structured data, like Open Graph and schema, create a convenient summary of your website for every other site that wants to use your content. Schema.org data is one of the main types of structured data. JSON-LD gives us a convenient way of adding it to our website. Our Local SEO plugin adds the right schema.org so that Google can add your company to Google Maps as well, for instance. Add schema.org data to your website and see your company in the knowledge graph as well.

Serving your content in the right format is essential to deliver it to other ‘places’ on the website. Be sure to use it. And if you are not sure what structured data you should use to optimize your pages, be sure to enroll in our Structured Data Training. How’s that for a New Year’s resolution? Good luck optimizing!

Read more: ‘Search and SEO in 2018’ »

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2018 is coming soon and people are starting to ask: what’s new? What should we do to keep up with changes in search and specifically in SEO in 2018? In this post, I’ll sum up the biggest changes in our world, and what you should be working on.

The search landscape is changing

Over the last decade(s), our computers have become faster and faster, and our phones have been catching up. The iPhone X is faster than many computers people have at home. The power of the small machines we have in our hands is slowly being utilized by apps and search engines alike.

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Building on that growing power of the devices in our hands, the reliability of voice recognition has been steadily increasing. It’s now at the point where, in languages like English, voice commands can be reliably used to instruct our devices to do something. One of those things we can do, is search.

Voice search changes everything

We cannot tell you how many people search with voice. Most people, for now, will not use voice search as their primary mode of searching. But: the search engines are optimizing for voice search results and have been doing that for a while now. Because the search engines are optimizing for voice results, all of search has already changed because of voice search.

The featured snippets that SEOs have been striving to get are a prime example of how voice search has changed SEO. Optimizing for these snippets requires old school SEO tactics combined with something new. You see, a featured snippet is meant to be read out loud. That’s the context in which Google’s Gary Illyes told people to read their copy out loud, early this year.

Listen to this result from Google Home for the search [what is a meta description?]:

If you’ve listened to the above answer, you’ll know why readability is so important. Answers this long become very hard to listen to if they’re not well written. And even then, we still have to solve things like figure out how we can get Google to pronounce SEO as S-E-O instead of “Seeoo”.

Google changes

Besides voice search and Google’s focus on that, more is changing in and for Google. Specifically: a few new technologies and a profound new way of looking at the web.

Mobile first indexing

We’ve written about mobile first indexing before, but the basic idea is simple: Google is changing how it looks at your site. From ‘judging’ your site as though it’s a desktop site, it’ll switch to judging your site as a mobile site. Every bit of content that can’t be reached on your mobile site, will not count for your ranking.

It’s still unclear when this will roll out and how fast this will roll out. Google says they’re already testing it, but they also say that sites that aren’t ready for it shouldn’t be hurt, for now. Regardless of that, your site should be working well and fast on mobile, so if it isn’t, that’s going to be your priority for SEO in 2018.

AMP

If you haven’t heard about AMP, you’ve missed quite a few posts on this site. I’d suggest you start reading here to learn what AMP is and why it’s important.

Google is focusing a lot of time and effort on AMP. So much that one of the projects we’ve got planned at Yoast for 2018 is to see if we can recreate our single post pages entirely in AMP, completely leaving the non-AMP version. Yes, that’s how important we think AMP will become in the long run. I don’t expect normal sites have to do anything that drastic in 2018, but do make sure you keep up to date with the latest news on AMP.

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Structured data: JSON+LD & Schema.org

Alongside AMP, Google is pushing more and more structured data ‘profiles’. By asking webmasters and SEOs to mark up their content in structured data, according to schema.org data structures, Google is trying to understand the web better.

Yoast SEO does a good chunk of work for websites adding structured data to sites already. For most small business websites and blogs, what it does should be enough.

But if you have a site that has a lot of content that fits one of the schema.org data types (think of recipes, reviews, products, etc.), I’d highly suggest following our Structured Data course. After that you’ll know how to set up a properly structured data strategy for your site.

Content is still king

While all of the technical changes above are important to SEO in 2018, and you should definitely keep an eye on them, content is still the thing that’s going to make you rank. Our recent ultimate guide to content SEO should get you started on the right path there. Good luck optimizing your site in 2018!

Read more: ‘Structured data with schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

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As a small business owner in the fashion and interior design industry, it’s important to make sure that visitors become familiar with your work and style. But when it comes to making your site SEO proof, some other aspects need attention as well. This case study focuses on the site bedivine.com.au, a great example of a visually nice site, in need of some small SEO finishing touches!

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Homepage optimization

My first impression of the homepage is ‘Cool and visually attractive image, but where’s the rest?’ Fortunately, there is a small arrow that indicates that there’s more when you scroll down. But I have to say that having the first parts of your content below the fold could lose you some visitors who are too lazy to scroll down. Once I see the content below the image, I’m a little bit overwhelmed. The layout is somewhat messy because all text is centered and there’s a combined use of bold, italics and various fonts. This doesn’t feel very inviting.

Bedivine homepage content

Call-to-action

One important thing that’s missing on the homepage (but also on the other pages) is a call-to-action. There’s no button that visitors can click on to get something on this site. In this case, you may want to hire BeDivine as a fashion or interior design stylist. While there are various menu items for all of the services BeDivine offers, none of them have a clear goal, for example, a ‘contact me’ button. The same goes for the homepage: it doesn’t invite visitors to take action. I understand the importance of describing what you can offer potential clients and what kind of look and feel you bring into the mix. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t guide your visitors through your site by enabling them to easily contact you.

Menu

A menu is a valuable part of your site to help visitors navigate to the most important pages of your site. In this case, the menu is clear and focuses on all important aspects of BeDivine. That’s great! However, I do find it a bit odd that, besides the top menu bar, there’s also a menu bar on the bottom left on the homepage.

Bedivine extra menu

It serves no purpose, especially since the top menu bar is sticky. This second menu only causes clutter and should, therefore, be removed.

Broken parts

Make sure that every part of your site is working and regularly check if this is still the case. On BeDivine I came across some broken links to the portfolio and the Instagram feed wasn’t working (as you can see in the screenshot above). These are things that decrease the user experience and make people lose interest in your site.

Mobile friendliness

I can’t stress this enough: in 2018 search will drastically change because of Google’s plans to index the mobile version of sites first. This means that the mobile version of your site becomes leading in determining the rankings. So, if your site isn’t mobile ready yet, make sure to fix this ASAP!
In case of BeDivine, some mobile optimization would absolutely be beneficial. When opening the homepage on my mobile phone, all I see are large letters that fill the screen. They eventually make up the word ‘Be Divine’ if I’m patient enough to scroll all the way down. This immediately illustrates the problem; the content is way below the fold and it’s unlikely that a visitor will ever get to it.

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

Local SEO

One question that’s left unanswered at the end of this review is whether this site should be optimized for local SEO? And I would definitely recommend that. The services that BeDivine offers are probably bound to a certain area, which is now not mentioned clearly on the site at all. Optimizing for a specific region could give a lot of benefits in the search results. Therefore you should create a Google My Business account and register your business. Local Search expert David Mihm wrote a great series of blog posts for us on Local optimization. We also have a local SEO plugin which helps you with your local optimizing. Since the services of BeDivine are a source of income, it’s in their best interest to get as much traffic on their site as possible, to increase their conversion rate.

In conclusion

Overall, I think that BeDivine is a site with a lot of potential! They’re already doing many things right, like evoking the ‘feel’ of their business and a nice menu. By changing some relatively small things on their site, they can achieve even better results. This would lead to a great mix of displaying the services you offer your customers, and a usable site. The best of both worlds!

BeDivine’s response to our case study

“Thank you Yoast for taking the time and use my website as a case study. Looking after my own website is very time consuming and having someone else looking into it is a great help. I will definitely fix all the little (and big) things mentioned by you. I don’t like messy so am keen to bring my page back to a functional website with an easy overview and a ‘call-to-action’ function. Thank you very much!” – Beate Pluta, creative director

Keep reading: ‘Avoid these common SEO mistakes’ »

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After a lot of its and buts, you have finally decided to create a website. A personal website for yourself, or that long overdue website for your business. You know you have to think about design and should supply well-written texts. You’ve already been inquiring about that thing called hosting. You may even have called someone that can build your website for you. All in all, you’re pretty confident that you can now start a website without any problems. But wait. Have you thought about this little thing called SEO?

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Create your website with SEO in mind

A large part of the search engine optimization process starts with focus: what is your website about? You have to focus on what we sometimes call ‘top tasks’. It’s a term used in mobile UX but it most certainly also goes for that moment when you decide to create a website from scratch. What is the purpose of a visitor coming to your website? And how can we make the journey of that visitor a pleasant journey?

When we discuss SEO with people that want to create a website, we focus on two main areas:

  • The technical side of things
  • Filling the website with content

In this post, I’ll highlight a number of important technical issues. In a follow-up post, I will go into the content side of things.

The technical side of things

With WordPress, it’s easy to build a website yourself. But a lot of you have probably hired a web agency to construct your website for you. That doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for them to finish. There are a lot of things you can check and optimize yourself.

Speed optimization

One thing you want to pay attention to is the speed of your future website. You can easily check that on websites like Google PageSpeed Insights, or Pingdom. In an ideal world, your web agency has already tested things and your own check of your site’s speed will result in nothing but greens and great ratings. If not, these tools will tell you exactly where you can improve. That could be an image of several MBs that slows down the loading of a page, or the loading of an excessive number of JavaScript files, just to name a few.

If you want to learn more about speed optimization, please read Site Speed: tools and suggestions. And make sure your new website is as fast as possible.

URL Structure

Since you are setting up a new site, you still have full control over your URL structure. In most cases, focus is your friend here. Including dates in blog URLs that aren’t related to dates is my favorite example of what not to do. You just don’t need a date in there, unless you are a news website and that date does matter.

For shop websites, focus the URL on your product. Do people use SKUs to find your products? Include one in the URL. If not, please leave them out. Ground-rule: strip your URLs from anything that’s unnecessary. And if we’re honest: /blog/ isn’t a useful addition to your URL, neither is /shop/.

A small remark about the length of your URL: if you use focus, your URL will never need to be too long. I’m not against long URLs, especially since Google seems to leave them out of the search result pages in a growing number of cases. But a shorter, logical URL is easier to remember. And easier to share offline, for that matter.

Heading tags

One of my favorite subjects: heading tags. HTML5 allows for one H1 per block element, am I right? I still recommend against that. If you use one H1 and one H1 only, you need to make very clear for yourself what the subject or focus keyword of that page is. By restricting yourself to that one H1, you most definitely will add focus to that page. It’ll help you to properly optimize – read more about that further down in this post.

It’s simple:

Make it responsive

The mobile version of your website is equally important, if not more important than the desktop version. Mobile-first, they say. Fact is, that your website probably has as many mobile visitors as it has desktop visitors, of course depending on the type of site you have. I think, therefore, that a responsive site should be the default for every website that has been built in 2010 or later. We all use our mobile devices to browse the web, and your website should be ready for that.

If your web developer tells you that the website is accessible from a mobile device, don’t just trust him/her. Go over your mobile website yourself and check if you, as a visitor, can do all you want and need to do there. I already mentioned our article on mobile UX; use that as a reference when testing your mobile site yourself.

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

Local optimization

We have written a lot about structured data. Using structured data, you can serve Google your address details in the most convenient way. With for instance JSON, or using our Local SEO for WordPress plugin, you can insert a snippet that will help Google to fix your website/business to a location. This information is used for local searches, but will also end up in Google’s Knowledge Graph:

Apple NY Knowledge Graph

So if your business or website is related to an actual location, be sure to optimize for that part of your site right from the start as well. And definitely add your LocalBusiness data right now, if you haven’t done that already :)

Track your traffic

Let’s not forget this one. I have seen my share of websites where the owner told me that conversion was low or that nobody filled out their contact form. But the owner had no idea how many people got to his/her website. No idea what the main landing pages or exit pages were.

If you are serious about your website, at least install Google Analytics or any other preferred statistics app. Collect data about your visitors, and find out what the customer journey on your website is. Find out what pages people like and which pages they dislike. If you want to know more about Google Analytics, please visit our Google Analytics archives for related posts. When you start a website, don’t wait too long before adding Google Analytics, so you can see your traffic grow from day one.

Get your technical aspects right

If you have covered the technical issues of a new website, you’ll have properly prepared your site for all the great content you’ll be adding. Adding content is the next big step in building an awesome website! We’ll deal with how to approach that in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Keep reading: ‘WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites’ »

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SEO is important for every website that wants to attract traffic. SEO for non-profits, in that regard, isn’t that different from SEO for other businesses. For non-profits -often struggling to make ends meet- it can be a cheap and effective way of attracting traffic. Making sure your website is findable in the search engines increases the chance that people will find their way to your non-profit organization. So, what SEO challenges are the most urgent for non-profit organizations? I’ll tell you all about those in this post.

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SEO is a must for a non-profit organization

It’s important for your non-profit organization to rank well in Google. Why? You want your audience, the people you’re aiming to help, to find their way to your website. When you’re findable, it’s much easier for them to get in touch and receive your information. Also, you want potential donators to find your website. Their sponsorship could help you to grow your non-profit business, expand your mission and help more people.

SEO is relatively cheap. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a lot of work. So, you need lots of time, writing skills, and some technical help with our plugin. Provided you have those at your disposal, ranking in the search engines is doable and will get you more traffic and visitors.

What SEO aspects to focus on?

There are a few SEO tactics that are especially important for non-profit organizations. SEO for non-profits isn’t essentially different from SEO for other companies. However, due to the distinct nature of (most) non-profit organizations, there are a few SEO tactics that’ll prove to be extra beneficial.

Content: write about what you do!

The first SEO aspect to focus on as a non-profit organization should be your content. While many businesses have trouble coming up with topics to write about, for most non-profits finding inspiration won’t be the problem. On the contrary, every non-profit organization has stories, a mission, a reason to exist. Translating those stories into awesome content is a great SEO strategy. Write about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and why that’s such a great thing. You’ll probably write content around your most important keywords without knowing it.

A good strategy is to write a few great lengthy cornerstone articles, which truly reflect your main mission. Other (smaller) posts should link to those cornerstone articles.

Optimize for your brand

Make sure that people find you when they search for the brand name of your non-profit organization. Lots of non-profits are known for their name. You want to be found on your brand name, when people search for it. So you’d better ensure you rank number one for that name. This shouldn’t be that hard if you focus on decent writing and make sure your site structure is in order.

Read more: ‘Low budget branding’ »

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Local SEO

Lots of non-profit organizations focus on a specific location or have multiple locations. You want people in your area to find you. If that’s the case for your organization, make sure that your website is findable on Google maps. Enter the information about your organization via Google Local Business Center. Check out our local SEO plugin if your non-profit organization focuses on multiple or specific locations. That’ll really pay off!

Keep reading: ‘Ranking your local business: introduction’ »

Mobile

Mobile search is becoming more and more important. Google announced that in 2018 the rankings in the search engines will be based on the mobile index. So it’s very important that your website is mobile friendly. Lots of people will search for and visit your website on a mobile phone. The design should be responsive and your site speed on mobile should be in order. Check out Google’s mobile friendliness test to see whether or not your site is mobile friendly.

Conclusion on non-profit SEO

SEO for non-profits isn’t that different from SEO for businesses, blogs or online shops. SEO should be part of the online marketing strategy of every non-profit organization, as Google is the most important channel for information for most people. Ranking high in Google is the way to reach your audience.

Non-profits should have no problem coming up with ideas for content. Focusing on writing awesome content will probably be the best and most effective SEO strategy. Top that off with great technical excellence and good site structure and there’s no doubt your non-profit organization will be on the (search) map!

Read on: ‘SEO for everyone: Yoast’s mission explained’ »

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Ranking signals or ranking factors are characteristics of a website that determine the position in the search engines. All ranking signals combined form the algorithm of a search engine. How this algorithm works is a secret. Nobody knows exactly which factors decide the order of the search results.

Google’s algorithm isn’t static. It changes regularly. The factors that determine the order, and the importance of these different factors change very often. Although the algorithm is secret, Google does tell us what’s important. Testing and experimenting give us a relatively good feel for the important factors and changes in these factors. In this post, I’ll talk you through the most important categories of ranking signals.

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Content

The content on your website is one of the most important ranking factors. Google reads the content of a site and determines what it’s about, and for what terms it should appear in the search results, based on the content. So make sure your texts use the keywords you would like to be found on. Texts on your website should always be of sufficient length -more than 300 words is usually Yoast’s advice. And, it’s important that your readers are able to understand your writing. So keep an eye on text structure, use transition words and make sure your text is as good as it can be! Our plugin helps you to write content that’s optimized for both your visitors and the search engines.

Links

A second important factor for ranking well has to do with links. To rank well, your site should have links from other sites, also known as ‘backlinks’. The number of backlinks is important, as well as the quality of these backlinks. Links from high quality, trusted websites (for example university sites) will have more impact than links from low-quality sites (such as gambling or porn sites).

Links from other sites are important, but setting up an internal linking structure that makes sense is also a great way to improve your rankings. Because if you have a clear internal linking structure, search engines will be able to understand your site’s structure, and your important pages will rank better.

UX

Your website should be user-friendly. Sites that allow and stimulate their visitors to easily navigate through their site, have a higher chance of ranking. If people instantly click back to Google after entering your site, this will result in lower rankings. Because if people can’t find what they are looking for, they will quickly return to Google, and Google will pick up on this.

Your website should also be fast, as site speed is another ranking signal. A slow website will result in a slower crawl rate. This means that Google will index pages on your site at a slower rate. New posts will take longer to show up in the search results. Making your website faster can, therefore, help you get organic traffic for new posts faster, and lead to better rankings.

Read more: ‘Site speed: Tools and suggestions’ »

Mobile

The importance of mobile SEO shouldn’t be underestimated. This was made even more clear by Google’s recent announcement. Sometime in 2018, Google will switch to a mobile-first index. This means that Google will crawl your mobile site and analyze its performance and content. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, other sites will be rated higher and outrank you. Even if you’re not focusing on mobile, you’ll still be judged on your mobile site, so now is the time to take action!

Google’s mission

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They want to build the perfect search engine and help people find what they are looking for. While Google has changed its algorithm numerous times over the years, their mission remains the same. Ranking signals are all determined with that mission in mind. So ensuring your website and your marketing strategy fit this goal is always the way to go.

Keep reading: ‘SEO Basics: what does Google do?’ »

Holistic SEO

If you want to rank high in the search engines, the best thing to do is to make a website that belongs high in the search results. Our advice always is: you just have to make sure your site is the best! Don’t use any ‘tricks’. While these may get your site ranked quickly, they usually don’t work in the long run, and could even backfire.

Permanently ranking well in Google requires an extensive SEO-strategy, focused on every aspect of your website. The technical stuff, the user experience, the content on your website and even the security of your website need to be in order. To keep ranking well in Google, you should develop — what we call — a holistic SEO approach. This approach can be a lot of work, but it will definitely pay off in the long run!

Want to know how to put holistic SEO into practice? Come join us at YoastCon 2017, the hands-on SEO conference! Read more »

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Mobile traffic is important. People are searching and reading on their mobile devices more than ever. What does that mean for your copy? Do you need to write differently if you’re aiming at a ‘mobile’ audience? How do you tackle copywriting for mobile? Here, I’ll share some useful tips on how to write awesome texts that can be read on both desktops and mobile devices.

Why is copywriting for mobile different?

Reading on a mobile device is different from reading on a desktop, mainly because the screen is much smaller. Texts appear stretched on a mobile device, as people have to scroll much more. Besides that, people reading from a mobile device can be anywhere. Lots of people use their mobile device ‘on the go’, while also doing other things. Their attention span and their concentration are very limited. That’s what makes writing for mobile challenging. 

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Tip 1: Always focus on your audience

The mobile phone will not read your post, but your audience will. And perhaps your audience likes reading from their phones. In that case, you can improve their reading experience a lot with the tips in this blog post. But the first thing to keep in mind is that your content should always be focused on what your audience wants and expects from you. That does not change if you start writing for mobile (too). By focusing on the question ‘how can I write best for mobile,’ you should never lose track of the most important issue: ‘what does my audience like?’.

Tip 2: Make your fonts large enough

Font size is important for the mobile UX of blogs. You can’t just use all your desktop font sizes on your mobile website, without checking how they look on a mobile device.

It’s important that people can read your base font – your paragraph font – without having to pinch and zoom. Also, make sure there’s sufficient white space between sentences. Mobile websites are usually browsed with a thumb. Your visitors should be able to click on elements with that thumb.

Be aware that your mobile site will look messy when you use more than three font sizes. The size differences will be much more visible. That’s why we advise limiting the number of font sizes to two, maybe three.

Read more: ‘10 ways to improve mobile UX’ »

Tip 3: Write short sentences

A sentence of 25 words takes up two lines on an average desktop screen. For a mobile screen, this will be four lines. Longer sentences will be spread over even more lines, and that makes remembering words in the short term memory even harder. So don’t use too many long sentences. It’ll make reading your text much more difficult. This is true for desktop as well, but it’s even more important when you write for a mobile audience.

Tip 4: Check your subheadings and white space

Paragraphs will quickly appear very long because they get stretched out on a mobile screen. You should limit the number of sentences in a paragraph and use sufficient white space. That’ll make a text much easier to digest. Informative subheadings that reveal what a paragraph is about will help people understand your text. Good subheadings will also increase the chance your audience will stay engaged, even if a lot is going on around them.

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Tip 5: Keep an eye on text-structure

The structure of your text should be just flawless. In a well-structured text, paragraphs follow in a logical order. Within paragraphs, sentences also connect to each other. So make sure to use lots of transition words. These words will help people understand the meaning of your text.

If your text is well structured, people will more easily understand the main message of your post. If your audience is unable to grasp that main message, they will get lost and tune out.

Conclusion: readability is of the utmost importance on mobile

Copywriting for mobile is not that different from writing for a desktop. In both cases, you need to write for a real audience. ‘Mobile’ texts do demand an even better readability than ‘desktop’ texts. That’s because reading from a mobile screen is more challenging than reading from a desktop. But, if you make sure your readability is top-notch, your texts will have loads of readers, on both mobile devices and desktops.

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