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’ »

We are addicted to our smartphones. For many people, the smartphone is the first thing they check when they get out of bed in the morning. It is also the last thing they check before they go to sleep. People use it for everything. It’s huge. Mobile has changed our lives. It has also changed SEO. Mobile SEO helps you to reach customers and satisfy their needs in an enjoyable way. This guide to mobile SEO will show you everything you need to deliver a perfect mobile experience.

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Why is mobile SEO important?

Mobile SEO is so important because it helps you get in the right place at the right time and makes sure the experience you offer consumers is stellar. Mobile traffic has eclipsed desktop traffic. Every day, more and more people are discovering the enormous advantages of the smartphone. Our whole lives are in those machines – it’s almost scary to see how attached we’ve become to our smartphone. Many people call it an extension of themselves and something they couldn’t live without. To reach these people you need mobile SEO.

Mobile does not necessarily mean on the go. Studies find that people often grab the nearest device to look something up and in most cases that’s their smartphone. They use it to inform themselves about products before making the decision to buy something. Anywhere any place. According to research by Google, smartphone users have a higher buyer intent than desktop users. They’re focused and ready to buy. It’s your job to be there when they are looking for your products.

Mobile SEO vs. desktop SEO

There’s a difference between desktop SEO and mobile SEO, but the goals are often comparable. You want to reach your audience and turn them into customers. In some ways, desktop SEO tactics also work for mobile SEO, but in a slightly different form. Three big themes still apply: focus on performance, user experience, and content. In desktop SEO you’ll often focus more on the general public, while mobile SEO is somewhat more local oriented.

Google’s mobile-first index

The importance of mobile SEO is made even clearer by Google’s recent announcement. Sometime in 2018, Google will switch to a mobile-first index. What does this mean? For the first time, Google will determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of the site instead of the desktop version. A new Googlebot will crawl your mobile site and determine if its performance, content and user experience are up to scratch. If so, you can get a good ranking. If it fails somehow, other sites will be higher rated and will pass you by. Even if you’re not focusing on mobile you will still be judged by your mobile site, so now is the time to take action.

Things will change

Right now, nobody knows exactly how this process will differ from the current one. We do know, however, that you must keep your mobile site crawlable by taking down all possible barriers like poorly loading scripts. Don’t block stuff in your robots.txt. It also has to offer the highest possible performance if you want to be indexed well.

You can no longer present less information on your mobile site than on your desktop site. Your content has to be the same on both, because, in the future, you can only rank on the information that is on your mobile page. Or, like Google’s Maile Ohye told us in an interview:

“To “optimize” for a mobile-first index, make sure that what you serve to mobile users is the version of the content you’d want Google to index, not a paired down version, or a version that gets updated later than desktop, or version that redirects to the mobile homepage.”

Don’t forget to tell Google your site is mobile-proof. You can add a viewport declaration – if you’re using responsive design – or a Vary header when using dynamic serving. More on later on in this article or in Google’s developer documentation.

Know what to do

Mobile SEO is – just like regular SEO – all about making sure your site is crawlable and findable. Also, you need stellar performance, great content and a flawless UX. To get it right, you need to know how your site is currently performing and what your visitors are doing right now. For instance, do people use the same keywords on mobile to find you? People often change how they search while using a mobile device. And what do you want people to do? Offering to navigate to the nearest Whole Foods is less than ideal when you’re on a desktop machine. It makes total sense on your smartphone, though.

Mobile SEO tools

You need to become best friends with Google Search Console. Its search tools are legendary and a big help if you want to find out how your site is doing in the search results. For instance, by using the Search Analytics feature, you can see how mobile and desktop users use words to find what they need. Are you targeting the right words? Should you focus on something else?

One of the other Google Search Console tools that make your life a bit easier is the Mobile Usability tool. This tool checks your site and presents an overview of posts and pages that don’t follow Google’s mobile-friendly rules. This is an excellent way to start improving your mobile SEO.

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Another Google tool is PageSpeed Insights. This tool shows you exactly how fast your site loads on mobile and desktop. It also suggests performance improving enhancements. Use this alongside the Developer Tools in browsers to see how your site is rendering its contents. Some other great tools to up your mobile SEO game are Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, Analytics, SEMrush, OnPage.org, ScreamingFrog, and SimilarWeb.

Read more: Google Search Console: Search appearance
Read more: DIY: Test your mobile site

Design for performance

It’s the number one thing you’ll be working on when you’re trying to improve mobile SEO: performance. In this case, performance almost entirely boils down to site speed. It’s a given: the faster your site is, the happier your users will be. We all know that a site has to load within a couple of seconds or else your visitors will be gone. If you combine this with the knowledge that sites are only increasing in size, you know you have your work cut out for you.

Optimizing performance, however, is a continuous process. Your site will never be fast enough because there’s always more to improve. And that’s ok. By keeping a close watch on how your mobile site is performing, you can immediately jump onto every opportunity to improve it. Google loves fast sites, and so do your customers.

Read more: How to improve your mobile site
Read more: Page speed as a ranking factor, what you need to know

Responsive design vs. dynamic serving vs. separate domain

While developing your mobile site, you’ll have three options: responsive design, dynamic serving and a separate site on a subdomain. Google prefers responsive design. This way, you have one site that adapts to the device it’s used on. There’s only one code base, so maintenance is easy. According to Google, using responsive design will make your site eligible for addition in the new mobile-first index. Always let Google know that your site is mobile-proof by adding the meta name=“viewport” declaration in the head of your documents.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

Dynamic serving takes a different approach. It uses server-side technology to serve a different version of your site to mobile users, depending on the way they access your site. The URL stays the same, but the files sent differ completely. You need to add the Vary header to get Google to crawl your site. This way, Google immediately knows that it will receive mobile-optimized files from somewhere else. A Vary header appears like this when a browser makes a request:

Vary: User-Agent

The third option is a separate mobile site on a different URL – usually an m. domain – and with different content. Google supports this method, but only if you make correct connections between your regular desktop domain and the mobile domain. Use rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” to tell Google how these pages are connected. More on these different types and how Google uses them on this Developers page.

PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a powerful tool to analyze the performance of your mobile site. It’s easy to use and gives you loads of insights into the loading speed of your site. Put in your URL and Insights will give you two scores: one for mobile and one for the desktop. These will differ. If your score is red, you have work to do. Orange means an average performance and green is good. You’ll receive suggestions to enhance the performance of your site. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll be on your way.

I hear you thinking:

“Nobody has a score of 0/100, right?”

Well, think again. It’s a combination of things that can do your mobile site a lot of harm. Find a bad hosting provider, install WordPress on a crappy shared hosting program, activate thirty plugins and upload a hundred non-optimized images to your blog and you are well on your way to a bad score. But these things can easily be undone. Run PageSpeed Insights and other speed analyses tools and follow their advice.

What can you do to improve your site speed?

When improving your page speed, you should always ask yourself if you need all these assets, libraries, images, plugins, theme features and so on. The famous saying “less is more” is still as valuable as ever.

Read more: Site speed tools and suggestions »

Think about implementing AMP

The Google-led open source project AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, has one goal: loading your pages as fast as possible. It’s been in development for some time now. It has reached new heights with the release of amp-bind, a JavaScript library that adds interactivity to AMP pages. Now, one of the biggest drawbacks of using AMP is fixed.

In the beginning, AMP was used on static posts, like blogs or news articles, that didn’t need interaction from the user. For e-commerce purposes, AMP fell short. Until now, that is. Look into what AMP could do for your site and how you might implement it. Not every site needs it, but the ones that do could gain a lot from it.

Read more about implementing AMP with WordPress »

New kid on the block: Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

PWAs offers another way of targeting that mobile user. A progressive web app is an all-in-one solution that works on all devices, for all users. It’s the perfect crossover between the app world and the web world. The web app works like an app, without the need to publishing it in an app store. PWAs combine the loading speeds of mobile sites with the best functionality of a native app. If done correctly, a good PWA might fool users into thinking they are using a native app.

Thanks to technologies like service workers, the browser can do a lot more in the background, while keeping the front end updated in real-time. This makes it a viable option if you need an app, but can’t justify the cost. There will be a lot happening with progressive web apps in the next couple of years. Google has a must-read blog post if you want to know how to create indexable PWAs.

Focus on user experience

Besides being findable and lightning fast, your mobile site should offer an enjoyable user experience. Try to take away any obstacles and make sure users can reach their goals quickly. There’s a lot you need to consider when optimizing your user experience. I’ve listed a couple of things you can think of below:

  • Fix your font size: your typography needs to be top notch.
  • Keep enough room between the clickable elements.
  • Make your sub-menu clickable, so users don’t automatically go back to home instead of the submenu.
  • Put your phone number on the homepage and make it clickable. This way, people can call you if they want to do business.
  • Don’t make users pinch and zoom to see – and use – your interface.
  • Make your buttons large enough for fingers.
  • Fix your forms: bad forms are unusable on mobile.
  • Cut the clutter.
  • Test, adjust and test again!

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

Optimize for local

While we use our smartphones a lot in our house, these devices become extra useful when we’re out and about. Google found out that 76% of the people who search for something nearby visit a related business within a day. 28% of those visits lead to a sale. To cope with that local demand, you need to work on your local SEO. Local search results can look very different from regular desktop searches, so you have to know what to target and how to target that. Here are some things you can to do to improve your local SEO for mobile:

Read more: Ultimate guide to small business SEO
Read more: Local ranking factors that help your business’ SEO

Finetune your mobile content

The screen of a smartphone is small, that’s a given. On that screen, text gets truncated or wrapped in a seemingly never-ending stream of paragraphs. A user has to scroll endlessly. Text on a mobile screen has the potential to give every web designer a headache. But the design – and use – of text is of crucial importance to the success of your site. If your site is unreadable or plain ugly, people will not read your 1,000-word article. Hell, not even your 100-word summary. Fix your typography.

People read a lot on their smartphones, but you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Also, you have to make sure that your content is up to scratch as well.

Read more: Optimize your mobile content

Write for the small screen

Always keep the restrictions of the small screen in mind when creating or editing content. Don’t use too many long sentences, keep your paragraphs around four sentences and use many stops like lists and headings to break up your text. Nothing is more daunting to your visitor than a massive block of unformatted text. Check your content on a smartphone to see how it works and if it’s possible to improve it.

Read more: Copywriting for mobile (coming soon!)

Write better meta descriptions and titles

Google will show less information in the search results on mobile than on a desktop. Your meta descriptions and your titles will be truncated if you made them too long. Thinks about that when you optimize your posts and pages. You lose several characters when optimizing your meta descriptions and titles for mobile. In Yoast SEO’s snippet editor, you can switch between a mobile and desktop preview. This way, you can see how the differences between the two and pick a perfect middle ground.

Read more: The snippet preview in Yoast SEO

When working on your content, you should take the next biggest thing into account: voice search. Yes, it’s been around for a while. But with the advent of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s nameless Home assistant, things are moving fast right now. More and more people are using their voice to perform actions on the web, and your content has to provide answers. If done correctly, you might kill two birds with one stone: you’ll not only respond to questions mobile users have, but it might also lead to so-called featured snippets or answer boxes on desktop searches.

To prepare for voice search, you need to take a good look at your current content. Ask yourself, does it answer any question a user might have? If not, change it. Find out which questions people use to find your content and optimize for that. Use Google’s autofill or tools like Answer the Public to find alternative questions to answer.

Read more: How to prepare for voice search

Add structured data to a mobile site

Structured data is hot. By adding structured data in the form of Schema.org to your site, you can open a line of communication with search engines. Structured data makes it clear for search engines what all the different elements on your site mean. If done correctly, search engines can use this data to give you highlighted search results, known as rich results or rich snippets. This way, your site immediately stands out from the crowd, and that might lead to a higher click-through rate.

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Structured data forms the basis for many new ways of presenting search results. The rich results we used to know as rich cards, for instance, use data you can add to your mobile site. The result is a snippet that is mobile-optimized and very enticing to click. Structured data is one of the most important topics you have to read up on. Follow our structured data course if you need an easy way to add structured data to your mobile site.

Read more: Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide

A mobile SEO guide

This ultimate guide to mobile SEO gives a lot of pointers to improve the performance of your mobile site.  Mobile SEO should always be a work in progress because there are always new things to improve. Also, technologies arrive or get discarded. The world is always changing, and you have to keep up. If you do, the rewards can be great. So, what are you waiting for? Get your smartphone, check your site in a mobile browser and find and fix those issues. Use this mobile SEO guide well, because 2018 is going to be an important year! This is the time to take action because if you don’t, you might miss out in the new year.

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

It’s official: Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index. But what does that mean? There’s no beating around the bush anymore: you should work on making your site as fast and accessible as possible. Don’t wait, do it now. I mean it.

For years, we’ve been bombarded by one message: mobile is going to take over the world. We needed to adapt ourselves to this new reality where everyone does everything on their mobile devices. While we still spend loads of time in front of our desktop and laptop machines, we can’t deny mobile is crucial. Just look at the upcoming markets, where people use their mobile for all possible tasks.

We also know that if you want to compete with the big boys, get a solid ranking for your mobile site and make some money from it, you need to take care of a few things. One of the most important ones is page speed. 

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The verdict is in

Let’s look at some recent research: according to Google the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load is now 22 seconds. Compare that with the three seconds visitors need to decide if they want to stay for your page to load and you will see a huge discrepancy. People are impatient. They want something, and they want it now. While page speed is important for your SEO, it is even more important for your UX, conversion and general customer happiness.

Yes, page speed will be a ranking factor

At the moment, page speed is more of an indicator than a ranking factor. Unless your mobile site is extremely slow, you can still get decent rankings with average page speeds. But it’s been proven time and time again that the speedier your site, the better your results will be.

Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.

Also, Google has recently gone on record saying that page speed will be a ranking factor in its upcoming mobile-first index. Details on how they will evaluate page speed for mobile and calculate rankings are still unknown. But, what we do know doesn’t change much from what we at Yoast have been saying for some time: make sure your site is responsive, as fast as possible, solidly structured, and full of excellent content.

5 ways to speed up your site

Do everything in your power to increase the loading speed of your mobile site. Everyone loves a fast site: we SEOs and search engines, but most importantly, our customers. Firstly, check Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what they advise you to do. Secondly, take a look at the size of your page, as many sites are bloated nowadays. Try to shave off as much as you can by optimizing images, compressing code and loading fewer external scripts and ads. In addition to that, here are five things you can work on:

Activate AMP on your pages

Google’s AMP project is meant to give the web a necessary speed boost. It’s not too hard to implement, and it will give your mobile site a life in the fast-lane. According to Google, AMP is not a ranking factor, but it’s not hard to predict it has a decent chance to become one. Read Google’s documentation on how to implement AMP.

Use HTTP2

That series of tubes we call the internet is at the dawn of a new age. Several new technologies will bring much-needed upgrades to the way the underlying infrastructure has been built. One of these is called HTTP2, and you can already use to speed up your site, barring it uses HTTPS. Find out more on performance optimization in an HTTP2 world.

Switch to PHP7

As we mainly use WordPress in these parts, getting everyone to use PHP7 is a big deal. To get everyone to move from unsupported and unsafe versions, like PHP5.2 and PHP5.3, we at Yoast created Project WHIP. Moving to PHP7 will give your WordPress site a speed boost, keep it secure and make it future proof.

General optimizations

You should already know these tactics. Please use a CDN to make sure that your content is delivered from a location close to the visitor. Use a caching plugin like WP Rocket to keep static parts of your site in the browser cache. Last but not least, please optimize images. That’s low-hanging fruit.

Critical rendering path

Running a PageSpeed Insights test will show you which elements block a page from rendering quickly. The critical rendering path is formed by the object – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. At modpagespeed.com you’ll find several open source tools to help you with these issues.

Always work on your page speed

Keep in mind that your work is never done. Your mobile site is never too fast, and your customers will never come flocking to you when you shave off just a little of your loading time. Keep working on it. Now, tomorrow and next month. If possible, try to automate your PageSpeed Insights testing, so you get regular updates. Follow the news to see if there are new ways to speed up your site.

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

Here’s the thing: your site should be mobile-friendly. In fact, this might just be your number one priority. If you want to improve your mobile SEO, you have to improve the performance of your site, plus you have to make sure that it offers users an excellent mobile experience. In this SEO Basics article, you’ll find an overview of what you should do to improve your mobile site.

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When is a site mobile-friendly?

A site is mobile-friendly when it:

  • loads properly on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet,
  • loads lightning fast,
  • presents content in a readable fashion, without users having to pinch and zoom,
  • offers ample room to navigate by touch,
  • offers added value for mobile users,
  • is instantly understandable for search engines.

Why is mobile SEO important?

Mobile SEO makes sure your mobile site offers the best possible presentation of your content to a mobile device user. Since our world is increasingly mobile-oriented, it has become imperative that your site is mobile-friendly. If your site is not, or not properly, available for mobile users, you are going to miss out on a decent ranking in the search engines and thus miss income. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to make the mobile version of your site as good as possible. In fact, it should be excellent!

Since the beginning of this year, Google uses the mobile version of the site to determine its rankings. If your site is not up to scratch, or if you present less content on your mobile site, you will have a difficult time getting a good ranking. If you don’t have an adequate mobile version of your site yet, you best make a fully functioning one, preferably as a responsive design. Google has a great getting started guide to get you going.

How to improve your mobile website

To improve your mobile SEO, you need to focus on a couple of things:

  • Make sure your site is responsive
  • Improve your site speed
  • Don’t block JavaScript, HTML and CSS code
  • Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
  • Don’t use too many redirects
  • Choose the correct viewport
  • Verify mobile-friendliness
  • Tell Google about your site

Responsive design

There are multiple ways to make your site available for mobile users. The most important one is responsive design, and this is the technology Google advocates. With a responsive design, your site lives on one URL, making it easier for Google to understand and index it.

If you use WordPress, chances are your theme is already responsive and can adapt to all screens. Be sure to check how your site scales in Google Chrome’s Developer Tools. If it doesn’t scale correctly, you should talk to your web developer about fixing it – or choose a different theme.

Improve your site speed

One of the most important things you can do to improve the mobile SEO of your site is to improve the loading speed of the site. Time and time again, studies show that people leave sites that load slowly, often never to return again. Speed has been a ranking factor for years, and Google is increasingly focusing on fixing this common issue.

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Optimize images

If there is one quick win to improve your site speed, it is this: optimize your images. Don’t load those 3000 x 2000 pixel HD images in your site. Scale them to the correct size and make them smaller with a tool like ImageOptim or WordPress plugins like WP Smush.

Minify code

Every request your site has to make has an impact on site speed. You have to work on reducing these requests. One way of doing that is by minifying code. This means that you group and concatenate assets like JavaScript and CSS, and as a result, the browser has to load fewer files, leading to a faster site. This sounds hard to implement, but a plugin like WP Rocket can take care of all your caching needs.

Browser caching

By using browser caching, you’re telling the browser that page elements that don’t change often can be saved inside its cache. This way, the browser only has to download new and dynamic content whenever it visits again. Again, this is something a plugin like WP Rocket can help you with. Or you can also do it yourself if you like.

Reduce redirects

A redirect leads a visitor from one requested page to another, because the requested page was moved or deleted. While this leads to a good user experience if done well, the more redirects you use, the slower your site will be. Don’t make endless redirects. Also, try not to keep links around that point to deleted posts that are redirected to new ones. Always make direct links.

Don’t block assets like JavaScript, HTML and CSS

We’ve said it before, and we’re going to keep saying it: Don’t block assets like JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Doing so makes it harder for Google to access your site and that could lead to bad rankings. Check your Google Search Console to see if you’re blocking resources.

Improve legibility

Make sure that your mobile site is perfectly readable on mobile devices. Use different devices to check if your typography is in order and, when necessary, make changes. Typography can make or break the user experience of your site.

Improve tap target sizes

People hate it when their finger can’t hit a button, link or menu item without fault. Sometimes designers haven’t given enough thought about the size of the buttons. Mobile users get frustrated when navigation is hard or unnatural. Fix it.

Choose the correct viewport

The viewport determines the width of the page for the device used to view it. By specifying a correct viewport, you make sure that visitors with specific devices get the right version of your site. Fail to do this, and you might just show your desktop site to a small-screen smartphone user – a big no-no.

Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups

Starting this year, Google will penalize sites that use large pop-ups or interstitials to promote newsletters, sign-up forms or ads. These often get in the way of the user quickly accessing the content they requested. Don’t use these, but if you must, make sure you abide Google’s rules.

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Test your site and tell Google about it

Before you start working on your mobile SEO, you should run a Mobile-Friendly Test on Google to see where you should start. During your work, you should keep testing to see if you make progress. If your site is optimized, you need to tell Google about it so that it can be checked and indexed. Use Search Console to stay on top of the performance of your site.

Investigate Google AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a new initiative by Google and others to get web pages to load super fast on mobile devices. By wrapping your content in special HTML code, you can optimize the pages in a way that Google can use to give them special treatment. Pages are cached by Google and presented with a stripped down presentation to make sure it gets delivered at light speed.

AMP is still relatively new, but growing rapidly. Nearly every site can benefit from incorporating this technique. If you have a WordPress site, it’s not hard to get started; just install the official plugin. This takes care of most of the setup. You can find more information in Google’s guidelines.

Conclusion

Mobile is the future, but that future is now. Do everything you can to fix your mobile site and make it perfect, not just in Google’s eyes, but, more importantly, your visitor’s. Mobile SEO is not just about great content and a flawless technical presentation, but more about creating a user experience to die for. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re on your way to the top!

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

Voice search is picking up steam. You can now use your voice to search the web, play music, navigate home, order sushi or get the latest football results. Not a day goes by without news stories about search assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s – uh – nameless service. It seems like voice assistants are slowly taking over the world. In this article, I’ll elaborate on the rise of natural language and voice searches, plus give you tips on how to prepare your content for these new types of visitors.

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

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What is voice search?

With voice search, you use your voice to perform actions on the web. In the past, people often laughed at voice assistants because they were slow and had difficulty understanding and answering questions. However, the current generation of assistants is on its way to becoming incredibly sophisticated. Almost every type of query is possible just by uttering it. We’re not there yet, though, to become a real asset to people’s lives, these devices and services have to take it up another notch. Accuracy is often still an issue.

But why voice? For one thing, it’s fast; people can speak much more rapidly than they can type. It’s convenient, because you can work hands-free and, most of the time, get instant, relevant results, be it in answer to a question or performing an action. In addition to that, the developments on using your voice as an interface, have resulted in a context-based system that uses many components to give you relevant results.

While the significant strides were made on mobile devices, it is now at home were voice operated devices find their place. Amazon has sold millions of Alexa enabled devices, and there’s no end in sight. Recently, Google went on the offensive with Google Home; it’s own smart home assistant.

A look at the data

If you look at data from Mary Meeker’s renowned annual trends report, you’ll see that the use of voice assistants is on the rise. In 2015, 65% of US smartphone owners used a voice assistant, up from 56% in 2014 and 30% in 2013. The main reason for this growth is the improvement of the technology. Meeker also suggests that Google voice queries were up 35 times since 2008 and seven times since 2010. The last one, in May 2016 one in five searches on Android devices in the US is voice activated.

voice search graph

From Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016

A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting showed that, while people were generally happy with the performance of voice assistants, they’d like them to answer more questions directly.

Expect search engines to double down on this

Why and how do people use voice search?

It might not come as a surprise that people use voice assistants because they’re convenient, especially when your hands are occupied. They’re a breeze to use, even more so for slow typers. Plus, people love getting fast, relevant results and many just plain enjoy the use of this kind of assistant. However, people rather use these services at home or in the car than on the go and at work. There still seems to be a psychological barrier to belt out search queries in a group of people.

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What voice search means for SEO

Voice assistants use so-called conversational search queries to get an answer to an individual question. These kinds of queries are spoken in a full, natural language sentence, and the reply is in a whole sentence as well. This is something you have to keep in mind when working on your content SEO strategy. If you ask [What’s the weather in Amsterdam today?], you might get the answer [‘It’s cloudy today, with a slight chance of rain. The maximum temperature is 16C.’] If you’re on a screen-based device, this result might be accompanied by a screen showing you the conditions.

Google Hummingbird

Google made answering questions a priority in its Hummingbird update in 2013. This update was meant to change the way Google responds to queries people write or speak. Since Hummingbird, the context of every word in the search query is taken into account. It’s no longer about the words themselves, but what they represent or mean. If you need a reminder of what Hummingbird encompassed, watch Joost explain it all in this video. Hummingbird had a significant impact on how Google scanned your content and thus on your SEO tactics. It became incredibly important to structure your text properly.

The 5 Ws

Conversational searches tend to answer the classic 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why and how. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Who designed the Golden Gate Bridge?
  • What do I need for a BBQ?
  • When did Sesame Street air for the first time?
  • Where can I get the cheapest pizza in the Bronx?
  • Why do birds suddenly appear?
  • How did Google start?

You see that these natural language, conversational searches encompass more words than our typed searches. These are no keywords, but rather key phrases. If you want to rank for these kinds of phrases, you have to have an answer for these questions. Long-tail keywords play an important part in this. More on that in a minute.

The technology is getting smarter

In the early days, searching with your voice was clunky and error-prone. Many people just gave up in frustration. However, nowadays, voice operated technology is getting smart, fast. Think about it; you can now adjust the spelling of a search query if a result came up with the wrong keyword [night vs. knight]. Searches now take into account what was asked before, so you can ask additional questions to narrow down the results. So, you can ask a voice assistant to find all films by Kevin Spacey. After that, you can bring that down to just the ones he won an Oscar for. Or ones that co-star Morgan Freeman.

Context plays a big part in the recent developments of voice assistants. More and more, these assistants look at the world around you to give you relevant results or actions to take. If you’re at home, you might get different options than when you’re commuting to work. Or if you have a particular app running, an assistant might use that information to make an educated guess about what you are doing or what you might want to do. This is only the beginning; we will see a lot more developments on this front.

Now what?

So voice search changes how we search, and therefore we should closely examen the way we provide our content. If you want to answer the natural language questions people use to search for something, your content is the first thing that needs to be fixed. You need to ask yourself what questions your content is answering at this moment and find out if that aligns with the questions people ask. Is the answer all-encompassing or is it incomplete, thus not satisfying the needs of the visitor? You should also think about the readability; is it easy to understand, scannable and instantly comprehensible?

Take a long hard look at the conversational queries people use to find what they need. Not only look at your data but also check how your competitors are doing and see how they are trying to answer these questions. Use the autocomplete feature in search engines to see which questions often pop up.

Put the answers you find in a spot where search engines can easily filter them out. Don’t make it a long winding answer, but get to the point and serve it straight up.

An example of a question answered

Your content and HTML must join hands to respond to questions in the quickest way possible. Optimize the pieces of content you think are valuable for your visitors, plus the ones you suspect people will search for. To illustrate that, we’ll look at an example from Yoast.com. We are continually working on our content to get it highlighted in Google. That’s no easy task, but keep at it and it will work.

In this case, our article on cloaking affiliate links has been optimized in such a way that it can answer the question: [“How to cloak an affiliate link”]. Google figures out the question and the answer right from the content. In general, it helps if you use short answers, and present it with bullet points. If you use ten or more steps, Google will add a ‘read more’ link to the answer box, likely getting you a higher CTR. Answering questions in this way, not only gets your content ready for voice search but can also lead to featured snippets in Google, like the one below.

voice search featured snippet

Google answers a question directly, based on Yoast content

Google takes this piece of content to answer the question

Focus on long-tail keywords

To answer natural language questions correctly, you also need to work on your long-tail keywords. Since these spoken questions contain a lot more words than a typed search command [What is the best restaurant near De Dam in Amsterdam vs. Restaurant De Dam Amsterdam], you can use these extra words to rank for. It might make it a bit easier to rank higher for the phrases you want to be found for. You’ll also see that searchers will increasingly use terms like [best] or [nearest] to search for relevant results, so that’s something you need to keep in mind.

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Another good way to answer questions people may have is by adding a FAQ to your site or optimizing the one you already have. Collect the questions people ask and write a short, but relevant answer. Search engines can directly use these answers to give searchers a valid reply to their voice search commands.

Optimize your page for mobile use

In addition to offering valuable answers to questions people are asking, your page needs to work flawlessly on mobile devices. Check how it functions on multiple smartphones, tablets, and other gear. Is it perfectly accessible on these devices? Is it attractive, fast and easily readable?

It is also a good idea to invest in a proper Schema.org implementation because this gives your pages a lot more context for search engines. For instance, you could add Schema.org markup to your review page, so search engines have a valid source to identify your authority.

Conclusion

It sure looks like voice search is here to stay. This brings great opportunities for some, while others might be worried about search engines and digital assistants answering every possible question directly. Should you be worried? Well, that probably depends on your content. If you have high-value content, like recipes, you might be ok. Voice assistants won’t be able to read that recipe for you, yet. If your site offers basic calculation and conversion services, for instance, to calculate the number of teaspoons that fit in a cup, then it’s going to be harder for you to survive in a voice search world.

Regular, content-driven sites, need to be able to answer the question voice-driven searchers are looking for. To get your site ready for the slew of voice-activated searches, you need to think carefully about your content; does it answer the questions people have?

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

Voice search is picking up steam. You can now use your voice to search the web, play music, navigate home, order sushi or get the latest football results. Not a day goes by without news stories about search assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s – uh – nameless service. You might think that voice assistants are taking over the world, but that’s not the case – not yet, anyway. In this article, I’ll elaborate on the rise of natural language and voice searches, plus give you tips to prepare your content for these new types of visitors.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

What is voice search?

With voice search, you use your voice to perform actions on the web. In the past, people often laughed at voice assistants because they were slow and had difficulty understanding and answering questions. However, the current generation of assistants is on its way to becoming incredibly sophisticated. Almost every type of query is possible just by uttering it. We’re not there yet, though, to become a real asset to people’s lives, these devices and services have to take it up another notch. Accuracy is often still an issue.

But why voice? For one thing, it’s fast; people can speak much more rapidly than they can type. It’s convenient, because you can work hands-free and, most of the time, get instant, relevant results, be it in answer to a question or performing an action. In addition to that, the developments on using your voice as an interface, have resulted in a context-based system that uses many components to give you relevant results.

While the significant strides were made on mobile devices, it is now at home were voice operated devices find their place. Amazon has sold millions of Alexa enabled devices, and there’s no end in sight. Recently, Google went on the offensive with Google Home; it’s own smart home assistant.

Want to learn more about recent developments in SEO? Come to YoastCon 2017 and get practical tips that help improve your site. Read more »

A look at the data

If you look at data from Mary Meeker’s renowned annual trends report, you’ll see that the use of voice assistants is on the rise. In 2015, 65% of US smartphone owners used a voice assistant, up from 56% in 2014 and 30% in 2013. The main reason for this growth is the improvement of the technology. Meeker also suggests that Google voice queries were up 35 times since 2008 and seven times since 2010. The last one, in May 2016 one in five searches on Android devices in the US is voice activated.
voice search graph
A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting showed that, while people were generally happy with the performance of voice assistants, they’d like them to answer more questions directly.

Why and how do people use voice search?

It might not come as a surprise that people use voice assistants because they’re convenient, especially when your hands are occupied. They’re a breeze to use, even more so for slow typers. Plus, people love getting fast, relevant results and many just plain enjoy the use of this kind of assistant. However, people rather use these services at home or in the car than on the go and at work. There still seems to be a psychological barrier to belt out search queries in a group of people.

Voice searches answer questions

Voice assistants use so-called conversational search queries to get an answer to an individual question. These kinds of queries are spoken in a full, natural language sentence, and the reply is in a whole sentence as well. This is something you have to keep in mind when working on your content SEO strategy. If you ask [What’s the weather in Amsterdam today?], you might get the answer [‘It’s cloudy today, with a slight chance of rain. The maximum temperature is 16C.’] If you’re on a screen-based device, this result might be accompanied by a screen showing you the conditions.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

SEO copywriting training Info

Google Hummingbird

Google made answering questions a priority in its Hummingbird update in 2013. This update was meant to change the way Google responds to queries people write or speak. Since Hummingbird, the context of every word in the search query is taken into account. It’s no longer about the words themselves, but what they represent or mean. If you need a reminder of what Hummingbird encompassed, watch Joost explain it all in this video. Hummingbird had a significant impact on how Google scanned your content. It became incredibly important to structure your text properly.

The 5 Ws

Conversational searches tend to answer the classic 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why and how. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Who designed the Golden Gate Bridge?
  • What do I need for a BBQ?
  • When did Sesame Street air for the first time?
  • Where can I get the cheapest pizza in the Bronx?
  • Why do birds suddenly appear?
  •  How did Google start?

You see that these natural language, conversational searches encompass more words than our typed searches. These are no keywords, but rather key phrases. If you want to rank for these kinds of phrases, you have to have an answer for these questions. Long-tail keywords play an important part in this. More on that in a minute.

The technology is getting smarter

In the early days, searching with your voice was clunky and error-prone. Many people just gave up in frustration. However, nowadays, voice operated technology is getting smart, fast. Think about it; you can now adjust the spelling of a search query if a result came up with the wrong keyword [night vs. knight]. Searches now take into account what was asked before, so you can ask additional questions to narrow down the results. So, you can ask a voice assistant to find all films by Kevin Spacey. After that, you can bring that down to just the ones he won an Oscar for. Or ones that co-star Morgan Freeman.

Context plays a big part in the recent developments of voice assistants. More and more, these assistants look at the world around you to give you relevant results or actions to take. If you’re at home, you might get different options than when you’re commuting to work. Or if you have a particular app running, an assistant might use that information to make an educated guess about what you are doing or what you might want to do. This is only the beginning; we will see a lot more developments on this front.

Now what?

So voice search changes how we search, and therefore we should closely examine the way we provide our content. If you want to answer the natural language questions people use to search for something, your content is the first thing that needs to be fixed. You need to ask yourself what questions your content is answering at this moment and find out if that aligns with the questions people ask. Is the answer all-encompassing or is it incomplete, thus not satisfying the needs of the visitor? You should also think about the readability; is it easy to understand, scannable and instantly comprehensible?

Take a long hard look at the conversational queries people use to find what they need. Not only look at your data but also check how your competitors are doing and see how they are trying to answer these questions. Use the autocomplete feature in search engines to see which questions often pop up. Put the answers you find in a spot where search engines can easily filter them out. Don’t make it a long winding answer, but get to the point and serve it straight up.

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

Site structure training Info

An example of a question answered

Your content and HTML must join hands to respond to questions in the quickest way possible. Optimize the pieces of content you think are valuable for your visitors, plus the ones you suspect people will search for. To illustrate that, we’ll look at an example from Yoast.com. We are continually working on our content to get it highlighted in Google. That’s no easy task, but keep at it and it will work.

voice search featured snippet

Yoast content answers a question directly in the search engine

The content for the featured snippet was taken from this piece of text

In this case, our article on cloaking affiliate links has been optimized in such a way that it can answer the question: [How to cloak an affiliate link]. Google figures out the question and the answer right from the content. In general, it helps if you use short answers, and present it with bullet points. If you use ten or more steps, Google will add a ‘read more’ link to the answer box, likely getting you a higher CTR. Answering questions in this way, not only gets your content ready for voice search but can also lead to featured snippets in Google, like the one below.

Focus on long-tail keywords

To answer natural language questions correctly, you also need to work on your long-tail keywords. Since these spoken questions contain a lot more words than a typed search command [What is the best restaurant near De Dam in Amsterdam] vs. [Restaurant De Dam Amsterdam], you can use these extra words to rank for. It might make it a bit easier to rank higher for the phrases you want to be found for. You’ll also see that searchers will increasingly use terms like [best] or [nearest] to search for relevant results, so that’s something you need to keep in mind.

Another good way to answer questions people may have is by adding a FAQ to your site or optimizing the one you already have. Collect the questions people ask and write a short, but relevant answer. Search engines can directly use these answers to give searchers a valid reply to their voice search commands.

Optimize your page for mobile use

In addition to offering valuable answers to questions people are asking, your page needs to work flawlessly on mobile devices. Check how it functions on multiple smartphones, tablets, and other gear. Is it perfectly accessible on these devices? Is it attractive, fast and easily readable? It is also a good idea to invest in a proper Schema.org implementation because this gives your pages a lot more context for search engines. For instance, you could add Schema.org markup to your review page, so search engines have a valid source to identify your authority. This should all be a part of your mobile SEO strategy.

Conclusion

It sure looks like voice search is here to stay. This brings great opportunities for some, while others might be worried about search engines and digital assistants answering every possible question directly. Should you be worried? Well, that probably depends on your content. If you have high-value content, like recipes, you might be ok. Voice assistants won’t be able to read that recipe for you, yet. If your site offers basic calculation and conversion services, for instance, to calculate the number of teaspoons that fit in a cup, then it’s going to be harder for you to survive in a voice search world.

Regular, content-driven sites, need to be able to answer the question voice-driven searchers are looking for. To get your site ready for the slew of voice-activated searches, you need to think carefully about your content; does it answer the questions people have?

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

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According to Maile Ohye of Google, “SEO is evolving into what Loren George McKechnie described as ‘search experience optimization’. It’s less about top ranking, and more about optimizing the searcher’s journey. It’s the intersection of content, UX, and as always, staying smart about search engines.” We had the chance to ask Maile a couple of questions, and she was able to give some interesting answers.

Maile is Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google. Since 2005, she has been working on making the search engine better. One of her works include the release of rel=”canonical”, plus rel=”prev” and rel=”next” for paginated content. Lately, she is focusing heavily on mobile.

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Is Google’s AMP project really going to change the world? If so, can you give our dear readers some pointers on preparing for the upcoming shake up?

The AMP project can definitely make the web better for a lot of people on mobile phones, especially with sub-optimal reception. Ideally, if we could travel back in time, web browsing on mobile phones would have become popular with a format like AMP HTML already in place — instead we had a lot of code-heavy desktop pages that were designed for a broadband connection then ported to mobile. As for an upcoming shakeup, that’s not on our roadmap! AMP isn’t “Google AMP”, it’s an open source project with hundreds of developers who have contributed.

If you’re asking, how will AMP HTML impact Google Search? We still want relevant results for users — we just know users hate slow page loads and AMP is a pretty surefire way to fix that problem and maintain a fast page longer-term. As for pointers on AMP, Yoast, your plugin and blog posts are great. We also have Codelabs if your readers want more info.

AMP is focusing on delivering super fast mobile pages, but will probably grow into much more than that. How will the technology eventually compare with, for instance, progressive web apps?

AMP is great for content-based webpage experiences with basic interactions — it’s not for super-interactive webpages like GMail or Maps. That’s where it can coexist with progressive web apps (PWAs). If you have a more dynamic website, AMP can be great as the initial landing page — the first experience of a user to your site can be AMP fast. Once the user clicks another link on your site, the AMP page can bring them to a PWA experience. (Here’s a demo of a PWA for CNET).

Isn’t Google confusing the web development world by supporting and building these – and other – new technologies? It’s getting nearly impossible to tell if something will ‘stick’, don’t you think?

I agree the number of options can be daunting and “will it stick?” is on many SEOs’ and marketers’ minds. I think with AMP and PWAs, it’s not about Google nearly as much as it’s about what’s best for your customers. AMP and PWAs were spearheaded by Google efforts, but neither are Google-proprietary technologies and both help your visitors whether direct traffic or from Search.

Google is also pushing voice search, AI and making its search engine smarter by way of machine learning (RankBrain). Is it possible that Google will eventually circumvent sites by giving the answer to nearly all questions itself?

First of all, internally, we talk about Search as an ecosystem that includes websites/site owners, users, and a search engine. In other words, websites and site owners are a requirement in search success! When Google provides an answer, we care about attribution. You’ll notice featured snippets still link to a URL for more information. Additionally, there are many queries where a single answer isn’t the end-game. Sites still play a large role in fulfilling searchers’ needs. Sometimes users want to browse, compare, research, learn, go on a journey. Quick answers will never be enough for a broad range of use cases.

A couple of weeks ago, Gary Illyes created major upheaval on the web after announcing that Google will eventually use two separate indexes, one for mobile and one for desktop. This announcement shows once again that mobile is the driving force in this world. Could you tell our readers how this new ranking method will influence their sites and what they should do to not get lost in the shuffle?

With mobile-first indexing, we’ll still have a single index just like the past (we haven’t built two). We still have several Googlebots to help crawl web and apps and get content: Googlebot for desktop, Googlebot for smartphone, Googlebot for images, etc. The difference is that we want to think of the mobile version of a page (the page retrieved by Googlebot for smartphones) as the primary version of the content. This is because worldwide, more people search on mobile than desktop. Now our index can better reflect what mobile searchers will see.

We’re testing the mobile-first index to make sure that searchers still have a great experience. To “optimize” for a mobile-first index, make sure that what you serve to mobile users is the version of the content you’d want Google to index, not a paired down version, or a version that gets updated later than desktop, or version that redirects to the mobile homepage. In most cases, if your site uses RWD (responsive web design), you’ll be fine.

We’d like to thank Maile for taking the time to answer our questions! Follow Maile on:
Twitter
LinkedIn

Maile will also speak at the upcoming WordCamp US conference, where she will give an update on search and mobile trends.

Read more: ‘Setting up WordPress for AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages’ »