When is your blog post ready for publication?

There is a subtle line between a crappy post and a perfect one. If you want to, you can endlessly tweak and improve upon your writing. So, how do you decide if your blog post is ready? When is a post good to go? In this blog post, I’ll share a checklist you can use to help you decide when to hit the ‘publish’ button!

1. Is your blog post long enough?

A post should contain at least 300 words. If you write posts that are shorter, you’ll have a hard time ranking with it in the search engines. In general, long posts will rank a bit more easily than short posts. However, long posts also require strong writing skills. Your article will need to have a kick-ass structure if you write something really lengthy. If you’re wondering how long a blog post should be, please read our article on text length.

☑ Is your post longer than 300 words? You are good to go!

2. Is your post free of grammar and spelling mistakes?

Before hitting publish, always check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Use a tool like Grammarly to make sure you’re writing in proper English (or in proper Dutch, German or Portuguese). Let someone else check your writing if grammar isn’t your strongest suit. Of course, you can alter mistakes after publishing an article and you will be forgiven for a small error. But, an article filled with typos and errors just isn’t a good read.

☑ Is your spell checker satisfied? Go ahead!

3. Is your blog post readable?

Reading from a screen can be difficult, so if you want people to read and understand your blog post it must be easy to read. This will get you more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. Easy to read means that you use rather short sentences, clear paragraphs, and transition words. In Yoast SEO we offer a readability analysis. If the overall check in the readability analysis is green, your blog post is readable enough to hit publish!

☑ Is the bullet in the Yoast SEO readability analysis green? You have the green light!

4. Is your blog post SEO-friendly?

Before you publish your blog post, you should always make sure it is SEO-friendly. A green bullet in our SEO analysis is good enough. Before optimizing your post, make sure to put some effort into choosing the right focus keyword. Optimizing your blog post for a keyword nobody is searching for will not result in much traffic.

☑ Is the bullet in the Yoast SEO analysis green! Publish that post!

5. Is your message clear?

Why did you write this blog post? What do you want your readers to know or do after they’ve read your text? The purpose of your blog post needs to be clear. The message of your blog post, the thing you want to tell your readers needs to be clear. Think about the purpose, think about your message and read your blog post once again. Is your message clear? Will readers understand that message? If your not sure, let someone else read your blog post. Ask them!

☑ Is your message clear? You’re good to go!

6. Did you add internal links?

If people like your post, they should have enough opportunity to navigate to similar awesome posts. Make sure to link to posts that are of interest. Perhaps you’re selling some fantastic products on your website. Make sure to add links to those product pages!

☑ Did you add some amazing internal links? You’re all set!

So, when is your blog post ready?

If you’re a perfectionist, your blog post will never be ready. You can always improve and tweak to make it a little bit better. And, even after publication, you can make corrections and small (or bigger) tweaks. The question ‘ when is it good enough’ can be a hard one to answer. Check the 6 things I talked about in this blog post. Did you do all these things? Can you answer all these questions? If so, go ahead and hit publish! Good luck!

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Engaging your online audience: 8 practical tips

Before I started working at Yoast to develop our Yoast Academy training courses, I worked as a high school teacher. After starting my job at Yoast, I quickly realized that the educational principles I came across in my previous job were really powerful tools in the online world as well. In this article, I’ll explore three areas to help you engage your online audience: knowledge gaps, memory overload, and creating a connection. I’ll also give lots of practical tips to help you do better yourself.

The curse of knowledge

One problem that you’re likely to run into when maintaining a site or product is the so-called ‘curse of knowledge’. The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that suggests it’s more difficult for experts to explain things to beginners. The Wikipedia entry does a good job of rounding up some key research into the bias. Remember those times you had no idea what the teacher was trying to say and a classmate seemed way better at explaining those things? That’s most likely due to the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge is everywhere. And you’re very likely to suffer from it.

The problem: the more you know, the more difficult it is to create something that is clear and intuitive to your users.

Tip #1: Do user research

Before you can solve any problems, you have to identify them first. Get users
without any previous knowledge together in a room. Let them use your product or navigate your site. Find pain points and eliminate them. If getting people into a room is difficult for you, surveys can help as well. Ask people what parts of your product they found difficult to use and use that knowledge to improve it.

Tip #2: Add scaffolding

Actively providing extra context and bridging the knowledge gap between you and your users is crucial. ‘Scaffolding‘ is everything a teacher uses to help someone do something that they can’t do on their own. An essential part of scaffolding is thinking about what another person already knows and using that to help them do something new. That’s exactly what you should do as well. Some things you may consider adding:

  • Clickable question marks that clarify difficult terms; 
  • Internal links to articles that explain a concept you use in a more difficult article; 
  • Images that clarify what you’re trying to say;
  • Tutorial videos;
  • Live chat or email support;
  • Documentation / lessons / articles that your users can use to understand;
  • Step-by-step plans / flowcharts / instructions
  • An indication of the level of an article so users can make an informed choice to read or not to read an article. 

Always try to make this scaffolding as little invasive as possible. You don’t want to annoy more advanced users.

Tip #3: Audit your materials periodically

Often, it helps to look back on something you made at a later time. When you review something you wrote three months ago, you’ve already lost some of the context and perspective you wrote it with. Which, in this case, is a huge advantage!

When you audit your materials, make sure to consider:

  • Your intended message: do the materials convey it effectively?
  • The use of jargon
  • Assumptions about previous knowledge users have available to them
  • Scaffolding 
  • Readability

Minimizing cognitive load

When humans do things, they use a cognitive system called working memory. This memory saves information in our brains for a few seconds to a few minutes. It allows us to make sense of what we’re doing. Unfortunately, working memory is limited. It’s easily overstimulated. When it is, people get frustrated or distracted. This leads to them clicking away or growing tired of your product. Managing working memory is key to keeping your audience engaged. 

Tip #4: Less is more

As creators, we like to get fancy. We want what we make to be cool and fun. Sometimes, this leads to fluff features or content. Carefully consider: does what I’m adding make the whole better? If it doesn’t, remove it. Addition by subtraction is a very powerful tool for engagement. 

Tip #5: Pay a lot of attention to readability

One of the most common problems on websites is readability. Most copy is much more difficult to read than it should be. Writing shorter sentences and using fewer difficult words can help your usability tremendously. Even if your audience is smart, easy-to-read copy is very working memory friendly. It simply costs less energy to read. This energy can then be spent on more important things. One way to improve readability is by ruthlessly editing your copy. Ideally, you should spend more time editing your text than writing it.

Read more: How to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO »

Tip #6: Break everything down into bite-size chunks

The working memory struggles with large blocks of information. The human mind needs focus, and it’s up to you to create this focus. Don’t write 30-word sentences or 20-sentence paragraphs. Don’t crowd your menu with 20 categories. Don’t stuff 20 options into one tab. It’s overwhelming. Break your materials down into bite-size chunks that are easy to oversee, so your users can focus on what really matters.

Creating a connection

I knew all the theory when I started teaching; that wasn’t the problem. But it wasn’t until I really started connecting with my students that I became a good teacher. One of the most powerful ways to engage your online audience is by creating that fuzzy feeling of comfort, familiarity and connection. And most sites and products don’t do a good enough job of this. Of course, the first requirement is a usable product or site. There are lots of extra things you can do, though, to help reinforce your relationship with your user.

Tip #7: Invest in design and branding

It’s tough to overstate the power of consistent design and branding. Our Yoast avatars are a great example. All over the WordPress community, our avatars are immediately recognized as they stand out from the crowd in e.g. lists of speakers at conferences. The same goes for the images we use in posts and presentations. Providing your users with a similarly positive experience over all the different places where they interact with you, helps you get recognized and valued.

Tip #8: Use the power of storytelling

Stories can be an incredibly powerful medium to make a connection with your audience. Most people remember one or more teachers who were always able to get them on the edge of their seat with great stories which helped them remember what the teacher was trying to explain. Stories and narrative are how people connect and communicate with each other. And storytelling isn’t necessarily about writing a large piece of fiction. You can just as easily hide little nuggets of storytelling in your blog posts or product pages. Yoast CEO Marieke has written a great series on storytelling that you should definitely check out.

Conclusion on engaging your online audience

The tips listed are a collection of insights I gained through my experience as a teacher, product owner and online writer. There are lots and lots more things you can do to make sure your online audience stays engaged. But honestly, if you get all of this right, you’re probably a fair number of steps ahead on almost everyone. Good luck! 

Keep reading: The ultimate guide to content SEO »


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How to use the readability analysis

Everybody knows the colored bullets (or dots, or even ‘traffic lights’) in Yoast SEO. Two parts of the plugin use this system: the content analysis and the readability analysis. The first checks whether your post is SEO-proof, while the latter checks if it is readable for a general audience. Of course, these two are interconnected, as readable content is incredibly important if you want your site to do well in the search results. Here, I’ll show you how to use the readability analysis.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading #6 of our best-read posts this year! Find out how the Yoast readability analysis helps you write readable content and why that’s important. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another holiday countdown surprise!

What does the readability analysis in Yoast SEO do?

The readability analysis uses an algorithm to determine how readable your post is. We’ve carefully crafted this algorithm to make it as accurate as possible without being too strict. It features several checks that’ll give you advice when you write your post. In other words, by following the advice, you can make your text easier to read and understand.

It has been said that Yoast SEO suggests to dumb down your writing. Of course, that’s not the case. We merely want to help people write easy to understand content. I always come back to this quote by content design hero Sarah Richards about making your content as readable for humans as possible:

“You’re not dumbing down, you’re opening up.”

By simplifying content, you’re automatically growing your audience, as more people grasp the message of your content. Also, you’re not writing your content just for people anymore. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri have to be able to work with it as well. And even Google increasingly uses well-written pieces of content for rich results like featured snippets.

That being said, while the advice in the readability section is not the be-all and end-all advice, it does give you important clues to the perceived difficulty of your text. It is crucial to write with readability in mind, as we think readability ranks!

Current readability checks

At the moment, Yoast SEO uses the following checks:

  • Transition words: Do you use transition words like ‘most importantly’, ‘because’, ‘therefore’, or ‘besides that’ to tie your text together? Using these words improves the flow of your article as they provide hints to the reader about what is coming next.
  • Sentence beginnings: Do any of your consecutive sentences start with the same word? This might feel repetitive to your reader, and that can be annoying. Always keep your sentences varied, so your article is readable and free of obstacles. Unless you want to prove something or use it as a writing style, of course.
  • Flesch reading ease: This world-famous test analyzes texts and grades them on a scale from 1-100. The lower the score, the more difficult to read the text is. Texts with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) are very easy to read. They have short sentences and no words of more than two syllables. Usually, a reading ease score of 60-70 is believed to be acceptable/normal for web copy.
  • Paragraph length: Some people tend to use extremely long paragraphs. Doing so makes your text look daunting as it becomes just one big blob of text. Break it up, use shorter paragraphs and don’t forget to give your core sentences some thought.
  • Subheading distribution: Similarly to long paragraphs, texts without subheadings are difficult to scan, which makes them rather daunting. So, we check if you use enough subheadings to guide your readers through the text and help them find what they’re looking for.
  • Sentence length: Sentence length is one of the core aspects that can make a text hard to read. If most of your sentences are too long – over 20 words – people lose track of your point. Readers often have to jump back a few words to find out what you mean. This very tiring and inefficient. Try to keep the number of words in a sentence in check. Shorten your sentences. Aim for easy understanding, not a complex literary masterpiece.
  • Passive voice: Using a lot of passive voice in your text makes it appear distant, and your message will be less clear. Your sentences become wordy and difficult because the sentence structure is harder to understand. Whenever you use the passive voice, always consider whether a better, active alternative is available.

Supported languages

The readability analysis is available in English and several languages, such as German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. Check out the features per language for an overview. We’re continually working on adding new languages.

How to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO

It’s very easy to use the readability analysis in Yoast SEO to improve your content. Personally, I just start writing the article I want to write. I keep the audience I’m writing for in the back of my head and try to use the words they would use. Although the readability score is calculated in real time, I won’t look at the score during the writing process. Only after (the draft of) my article is finished, I’ll check the readability score and see if I have to fix anything. If I get an orange or red bullet, I can click on the eye icon to find out where improvements can be made. Easy peasy!

Everyone has their own writing and editing process, and my way isn’t necessarily how you should use it. For instance, you might be targeting a Flesch level of 80. If so, you have to find out what works gradually. When using the readability tool for a while, you’ll notice that you’ll automatically get a feel for the level you are aiming for. Practice makes perfect!

The readability checks in Yoast sEO

Should all bullets be green?

This is a question we often get and no, not every bullet has to be green. What you should aim for, though, is a green, happy bullet overall – the one in the tab that reads “Readability”. Having an orange bullet for one of the checks, like in the screenshot above, is ok. Your article will still be able to rank, even if it doesn’t pass all of the tests. This is merely an indication, not a necessity.

We want everyone to be able to read and understand content, but we also know that there are industries where the language used is totally different from what ordinary people would use. That’s perfectly fine. Find out what works in your case. Need help? Please read our ultimate guide to SEO copywriting.

Try it out!

The readability and content analyses of Yoast SEO help you to write excellent, SEO-proof articles that are easy to grasp for anyone. In doing so, you make sure that every piece of content you write is ready to start ranking in search engines, while staying enjoyable for readers. Don’t have Yoast SEO yet, or want to take advantage of the awesome additional features our Premium plugin offers? What are you waiting for?

Read more: How to use the content & SEO analysis of Yoast SEO »

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Why you should use synonyms and related keywords

SEOs like keywords. These are the words people search for. The words that make your posts and pages rank. You put a lot of effort into finding that perfect keyword to optimize your article for. So, why shouldn’t you use that exact keyword over and over again? Why should you use synonyms and related keywords? Will doing that help improve your rankings? Well: Yes! As a matter of fact: using synonyms and related keywords the right way will most definitely help you rank. In this post, I’ll explain why. 

A good writer mixes things up!

The most important reason why you should use synonyms and related keywords is because it will make your text so much nicer to read. If you write a text about ‘candy’ and you use the word ‘candy’ in every other sentence, your text will get boring. Your readers will stop reading and click away. You’ll lose your audience. That’s why you should mix things up. Words like ‘sweets’ and ‘delicacy’ could serve as synonyms for ‘candy’. Related keywords would be ‘chocolate’ and ‘sugar,’ which aren’t real synonyms for ‘candy’, but still relevant. 

For a text to be attractive to a reader, it should be very varied. You can vary with a lot of things. For instance, you can try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. That makes a text much more attractive. You can also try to alternate the sequence of words. But the most important tool is to vary with the exact words you use. Especially if you’re trying to rank for a long tail keyphrase such as ‘candy store New York’. Using that exact key phrase in a lot of sentences will make it awful to read. Using synonyms and related keywords, on the other hand, makes a text much more attractive.

But wait: what about keyword density?

Of course, it is important to use your focus keyword regularly, but you should not overdo it. In the old days, SEOs tended to stuff their texts with a lot of keywords. That way, Google would understand what the text was about and rank it accordingly. But Google is not that stupid anymore. It can read and understand texts. 

If you search for ‘candy store New York’ you’ll get results from Google with content from ‘candy stores’ as well as ‘candy shops’. Google understands that ‘store’ and ‘shop’ are synonyms, and treats them as such. 

Snippets from the search result page for the search ‘candy store New York’

It is important to use your focus keyword a few times throughout your post. The focus keyword is the word or phrase your audience is searching for. That exact match remains important. These are the words your audience uses, the words your audience expects to find. But, instead of using your focus keyword over and over again, you should mix things up with synonyms and related keywords.

How often should you use synonyms?

The usage of synonyms versus the use of the focus keywords is no exact science. The most important criterion is the reader. So, read and re-read your text. Is it text nice and easy to read? Or are you getting annoyed by the constant use of a certain term? Let other people read your text. Ask them for feedback. 

If you need more guidance, Yoast SEO will help you to use synonyms and related keywords as well. In Yoast SEO Premium, you can add synonyms of your focus keyword. The plugin can check if you’ve used those synonyms in, for instance, your meta description, introduction, subheadings or image alt text. Moreover, our keyphrase distribution check (added in Yoast SEO 7.8) will reward you for alternately using your keyphrase and its synonyms throughout your text.

One step further: use those synonyms to your advantage

Google understands texts and takes related concepts and synonyms into account. In the old days, Google wasn’t that smart. But nowadays, it wants to serve its users the best result. It is able to recognize related entities. In the end, Google just wants to serve readable texts.

So make sure you deliver! Think of synonyms for your keyword or keyphrase and use them to your advantage. Take a moment and try to come up with a few alternatives for your keyword. Think of things that are strongly related to your keyword. Enter these words in our SEO analysis and make sure to use those in your text. You’ll increase your chances to rank, and more importantly: your content will be more pleasant to read if you use synonyms and related keywords!

Conclusion

Keywords remain essential. These are the words your audience is searching for. People searching for ‘candy’ will probably not click on a result with ‘delicacy’ in the text. If you search for ‘candy’ you’ll expect to see that exact word in the search results. Therefore, exact match keywords remain the most important keywords.

That being said, synonyms and related concepts are very important as well. You just need those to write a readable text. You can’t repeat yourself over and over, especially if you’re optimizing your text for a long tail keyword. Furthermore, using synonyms and related keywords may create ranking opportunities you’d otherwise have missed. In Yoast SEO premium, we offer all the features you need to take into account word forms, synonyms and related keywords. 

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The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO

Imagine you have a website but know nothing about SEO. But you’ve heard about Yoast SEO and people have told you it’s a great tool for effortlessly optimizing your site and its pages for Google, Bing, and Yandex. So you install the Yoast SEO plugin or the Yoast SEO extension and follow the instructions. What’s next? While it’s unlikely that your website will be right at the top of Google within a week, our plugin helps you to optimize for search engines, to improve your chances to rank. It does that well, but it still needs your input.

This beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO explains the basics of SEO as covered by our plugin. Let’s go through the steps every user should take when trying the Yoast plugin, and take the first steps in optimizing your site.

Do you need more guidance, to use all the great features of Yoast SEO to their full potential? Look no further and check out our free Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin training! It’ll teach you how to make optimum use of your Yoast SEO plugin, so you can take your SEO to the next level!

A beginner‘s guide to Yoast SEO

Before we start, take note that this isn’t a guide to every single detail of our plugin. In this post, we’ll show you some important things we think you should use or configure. Our plugin has quite a few settings, so it’s good to know which you should configure first. If you have a site-specific question about a particular setting in the plugin, you could also check out the Yoast Knowledge Base.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Configuring Yoast SEO: configuration wizard
  • Using the Yoast SEO metabox
  • A bit more advanced: Yoast Dashboard

    Configuring Yoast SEO: configuration wizard

    Our Yoast SEO configuration wizard is a great place to start configuring your plugin. You’ll find it at Yoast SEO > General > Dashboard:

    yoast seo configuration wizard 1

    The configuration wizard guides you through several steps that help you configure our plugin to suit the needs of your site. Even if your website has already been around for a while, you can still run the wizard every now and then. Just to make sure your settings are up to date. Each step of the wizard includes questions, the answers to which will determine particular settings.

    Read more: The Yoast SEO configuration wizard and why you should use it »

    Other settings

    Of course, there are many aspects to SEO, and many more settings you could tweak in the plugin. But we set the configuration wizard in such a way that it already configures the plugin’s general settings correctly for your website. So you can focus on what’s most important – your content! Curious to find out what the plugin does for your site? Read up on Yoast SEO’s hidden features that secretly level up your SEO!

    Using the Yoast SEO metabox

    Of course, any Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO should extensively cover the metabox. The Yoast SEO metabox will help you optimize your content as you’re writing it in the backend. If you’re using the Block Editor, you’ll find the it on the right side of the editor, as well as underneath the editor. Here, you’ll find a few tabs, two of which we’ll discuss here.

    • A tab where you can insert the word or phrase you want to optimize the page for – the focus keyphrase. This tab also includes the SEO analysis.
    • A tab for the readability analysis. The checks in this tab help you write the best copy you can, so you can serve your audience great content.

    Let’s go through the checks in each tab, and explore which other things you can set in the metabox.

    The readability analysis

    The first step in optimizing your post or page is making sure it’s nice to read for your audience. Since SEO is one of those areas where content is indeed king, we provide a convenient readability analysis for you. That’s because we understand not everyone has the skills to easily create readable content. Use the readability analysis when you’re writing a new post, or directly after, depending on what works best for you.

    Now let’s see what’s in our readability analysis:

    As you can see, we analyse many different aspects of your text:

    Why is readability important?

    If you’re going to write website content, you need to understand that online and offline writing are two different things. While we take the time to sit down and read the great stories in books, or the articles in magazines, we tend to quickly scan, process and use the things we read online. This post isn’t a page in a book. It’s information for you to process, like most online pages are, and we wrote our readability analysis with that purpose in mind. Check out our post on ease of reading and SEO to find out more!

    Government rulings and readability

    As you may know, Yoast is based in the Netherlands, where the law requires that the copy on all government websites is B2: Upper intermediate level. It’s a rule that makes sure that every citizen, regardless of their level of education, can read and understand the information on these websites. We believe that every site should be understandable for everyone. Our readability analysis aims to help with that.

    • Readability score: the Flesch Reading Ease test makes sure every reader can understand your writing. If you are writing for a more educated audience, a lower score is acceptable – it’s a guideline, you decide how strictly to follow it.
    • Use of passive voice: passive voice distances you from the reader, while active voice is much more engaging. It’s almost impossible to write a ‘natural’ article without any passive voice at all, which is why we ‘allow’ 10% passive voice in our analysis.
    • Consecutive sentences: if your text contains three or more sentences in a row all starting with the same word, it may become a bit repetitive. We encourage you to mix things up!
    • Use of headings and subheadings: Headings help you group topics, which makes a text easier to process, which means that people can scan your pages faster.
    • Paragraph length: long paragraphs in an online article are more difficult to understand as readers find themselves lost in all the words. Bite-sized chunks of text are easier to process.
    • Sentence length: while in a book you can stretch a sentence over half a page, shorter sentences are much easier to read online. We use 20 words as a target length.
    • Use of transition words to help improve the ‘flow’ of your page. They send a signal to your visitors that something is coming up and prepares them for the next sentence. You’ll find that the recommendation of using transition words in 30% of your sentences isn’t that hard to do.

    If you want more insight into how we decided on all these criteria, see Content analysis: methodological choices explained. By the way, our readability analysis works for many languages, such as English, Spanish, Dutch, French, German, and Italian. Here’s an overview of which features are available per language.

    Snippet preview

    In addition to the checks in the metabox, we provide an editable snippet preview. In the Block Editor, you can find it near the top of the sidebar, or underneath the editor, under the ‘SEO’ tab. The snippet preview shows you how the Yoast plugin displays your page to Google and other search engines. In other words, it gives an idea of how your site would appear in the search results.

    In the snippet preview, you can set a meta description. Make an effort and write a meta description that clearly reflect what your post or page is about. Let people know they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site and entice them to visit your site. There’s no guarantee that Google will display your meta description in the results pages. But if the meta description you add here is very good, you’ll increase the odds.

    SEO Analysis

    The next step is optimizing your content for your focus keyphrase to rank in the search engines. You can enter your keyphrase at the top of the sidebar in the block editor, or at the top of the ‘SEO’ tab.

    Just so we’re clear: entering a keyphrase here doesn‘t guarantee that you’ll rank for that keyphrase. Unfortunately, we can’t make that happen for you. What we can do, is evaluate how well your content is optimized to rank for that specific keyphrase. Need more information on picking a focus keyphrase? Find out how to choose the perfect focus keyword.

    Our SEO analysis currently includes the following checks:

    In the image, you can see how we analyze different aspects of your text:

    • Keyphrase in subheading: subheadings are a prominent part of your article. Add your focus keyphrase to a few of your subheadings, so its importance is clear.
    • Keyphrase distribution: you need to mention your keyphrase often enough in your text, but good balance is key. That’s why we check if your keyphrase is evenly distributed throughout your text.
    • Image alt attributes: add images to create a better experience for your users. Use the focus keyword in the ALT text so that Google can relate that image to the keyword.
    • SEO title width: a short page title allows you to add a trigger for a visitor from Google to click to your website.
    • Outbound links: we encourage sites to link to other websites as well, as this opens up the web. Link to other websites that back up the points in your blog posts, or provide further information. This will help Google work out which websites relate to each other on what subjects.
    • Internal links: to set up a proper site structure, link to at least one other related page on your site. It keeps visitors on your site and shows them more (background) information.
    • Keyphrase in introduction: you want to make clear right from the start what the page is about, so try to add the focus keyphrase from the start.
    • Keyphrase length: If a keyword is too short, you’re probably targeting a super competitive keyword, whereas longer keyphrases make it harder to optimize your post. So, we recommend a maximum of four relevant keywords for your focus keyphrase.
    • Keyphrase density: In the free version of Yoast SEO, you’ll get a green bullet if your keyphrase density lies between 0.5 and 3%. That’s to make sure you use your keyphrase enough, without over-optimizing.
    • Keyphrase in meta description: add a meta description that includes the focus keyword. People searching for that term on Google may see this in search results, so make it enticing to click on.
    • Meta description length: We advise to keep your meta description between 120 characters and 156 characters.
    • Previously used keyphrase: you should optimize a page for a certain keyword – not an entire website. So don’t create pages that compete with each other! Yoast SEO will warn you if you write more than one post about the same keyword. A simple solution is to use a variation or a long tail keyword
    • Text lenght: if you want your page to rank for a specific keyword, you need to write at least 300 words on the subject. Otherwise, search engines will have a hard time grasping your topic, and might even consider your page ‘thin content‘ – and you want to avoid that.
    • Keyphrase in title: if you add your focus keyword at the beginning of your page title, it will have the most value. Also, it will immediately stand out when your post is shared
    • Keyphrase in slug: repeat your focus keyword in your URL. This makes it clear – even out of context – what your page is about. And Google also likes seeing it in there.

    For an overview of all checks in the Yoast plugin, check out the Yoast SEO assessment page.

    If you have Yoast SEO Premium, the plugin will recognize word forms, and allows you to optimize for keyword synonyms as well. Our premium analysis is as smart as Google, why not give it a spin?

    Does every light need to be green?

    No, not every bullet in the SEO analysis has to be green for your post or page to rank. Similarly, getting your post ‘all-green’ in no way guarantees that it will rank. While it’s tempting to simply aim for all-green bullets on every post or page without working on other aspects of your SEO, that isn’t the best SEO strategy. Proper keyword research and site structure always come before getting green bullets. Read more about properly using the colored bullet system in Yoast SEO.

    Next level: Cornerstone content

    If your page is the main page for a particular topic or keyword in a group of pages you plan to write, you can mark it as cornerstone content. There’s a toggle for that in the Yoast SEO metabox, so Yoast SEO can help you you create your best cornerstone articles. But, how to implement a cornerstone content strategy on your site isn’t a subject for a beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO! It might be wise to take our Site structure course first :)

    A bit more advanced: Yoast Dashboard

    Of course, there is so much more you can do with Yoast SEO. You can access and change many settings of the plugin in the Yoast Dashboard. There’s usually no need to change anything. Especially if you’re an inexperienced user, it’s wise to stick to the settings you set in the configuration wizard. But let’s have a quick look around to give you an idea of what the options are.

    Search Appearance

    If you go to Yoast > Search Appearance, you can adjust how your site appears in search engines. Take the ‘Title Separator’, for instance. In the configuration wizard, you can choose whether you want a dash, asterisk, or something else. But, if you change your mind later, you can always change it here.

    search appearance yoast seo

    In ‘Search Appearance’, you can change, among other things, how our plugin sets up your titles and metas. Go to the tab ‘Content Types’, where you will find the default template we use for your post titles. It’s good to know it’s there and realize what you can configure.

    This simply means we will use the title of your page or post as the page title, and add the page number if your post is divided over multiple pages. Then we add a title separator (which we discussed in the first paragraph on this section) and then the site name you have set when creating your site. So, following this setup, the title for this Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO post looks like this:

    Beginner's guide to Yoast SEO: page titles

    Note that this example doesn’t include a page number after the page title, as this post is just one page.

    This is the setup we recommend. It’s focused on the page title (“Beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO”) and has proper branding at the end (“Yoast”).

    The reason why I’ve drawn your attention to this setting, is that you should know it’s there, so you don’t have to look for it in the future. This is why your titles are shown like this in Google searches.

    Keep reading: Snippet variables in Yoast SEO »

    Yoast SEO for beginners

    That’s it for our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. With Yoast SEO properly installed, your website is ready for Google. You now can get on track adding and optimizing your content with the Yoast readability analysis and SEO analysis!

    Here’s a few more reading recommendations, if you really want to become a pro user of the Yoast SEO plugin:

    If you want all this information and more, neatly structured in one place, and with helpful videos, check out our Yoast SEO for WordPress plugin training, it’s free!

    Read on: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

    The post The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO appeared first on Yoast.

How to Yoast your post

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

Writing comes first, Yoast comes second

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

Preparation is key

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

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

Write your content

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

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

Editing: let’s Yoast it!

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

  1. Make sure your text is readable

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

  2. Check out your snippet preview

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

  3. Which SEO bullets need improvement?

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

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

  4. Add those internal links

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

  5. Read and reread!

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

Yoast your post

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

Good luck! Let’s Yoast it!

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

The ultimate guide to content SEO

Content SEO is a key part of any SEO strategy. Without content, it’s impossible for your site to rank in search engines. It’s, therefore, crucial to write and structure quality content! This ultimate guide covers the most important areas of content SEO. Read on if you want to learn how to create content that ranks.

What is content SEO?

Content SEO refers to creating content that helps your web pages to rank high in the search engines. It includes everything to do with the writing and structuring of content on your website. There are three major elements you need to consider to produce content that will make your website rank well: keyword strategy, site structure and copywriting.

Content SEO is important because search engines, such as Google, read your website, so the words you use on your site determine whether or not your site will rank in their results pages. Of course, your website should be well-designed, with a great user interface, and all the technical stuff that makes your site rank in Google should also be covered. But without good quality content, your site does not stand a chance in the search engines.

1. Keyword research

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is basically the steps you take to create an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for. Every content SEO strategy should begin with keyword research, because you have to know what your audience is searching for if you want to generate traffic. Keyword research helps you to discover the terms you should be aiming to rank for.

Keyword research has four steps:

  • First, you write down the mission of your business;
  • Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for;
  • Look at search intent
  • Finally, you create landing pages for all these keywords.

If you do your keyword research right, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms for which you want the pages on your site to be found. This overview will serve as a guide for writing content on your website.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

Why is keyword research so important for SEO content?

Proper keyword research will make clear which search terms your audience uses. This is crucial. At Yoast, we regularly encounter clients who use particular words when talking about their products, while their customers use entirely different words. Optimizing SEO content for words that people do not use doesn’t make any sense. Doing proper keyword research makes sure that you are using the same words as your target audience and therefore makes the whole effort of optimizing your website worthwhile.

Some terms we use in keyword research

Keywords and keyphrases

We tend to use the word ‘keyword‘ all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it has to be just one word. ‘WordPress SEO’ is a keyword, as is ‘Google Analytics plugin.’ So you can have keywords containing multiple words!

Long tail keywords

The longer (and more specific) a search term is, the easier it will be to rank for that term. Keywords that are more specific (and usually longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are more specific and focus more on a niche.

How many keywords?

It is very hard to give an exact number of keywords you should focus on. And then again, it’s very simple: You just need to have a lot – as many as you can come up with. More than 1,000 keywords is probably too many though!

Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But you don’t have to create pages for all of these immediately. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can gradually add content. Think about what keywords you would like to rank for right away, and which ones aren’t immediately important. Determine what your priorities are and plan the creation of your content.

Head or tail?

Classifying your keywords is essential. Some keywords are very common and competitive (head), while others are long-tail. Decide which are your most critical, high-level keywords – the ones that generate sufficient traffic for your website and best fit your business. You will probably only have a few of these general keywords for your business, the rest of them will be more down the tail. In the next section, we will give more in-depth information on long tail keywords (and the importance of these keywords).

SEO content focusing on the most common keywords should be on the top level pages on your website (homepage and the pages one level beneath your homepage), whereas content focusing on long tail keywords should be more on the tail end of your site.

Keyword intent and search intent

As you’re doing keyword research, it really pays off to think about the search intent of users. Would they be looking for information when they enter your keyword as a search term? Or is their goal to buy something? Keyword intent is clear in keywords like [buy leather sofa], or [how to train your puppy]. But it’s not always that simple.

There are four types of intent:

  • Navigational intent: People want to visit a specific website, but rather than entering the URL, they’re entering a term into a search engine.
  • Informational intent: People are trying to find an answer to a particular question or information on a specific topic.
  • Commercial intent: People want to buy something in the near future and are doing research before making a purchase.
  • Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Search engines are always trying to answer to the exact needs people have, and they’re getting better and better at guessing people’s intent. So, put simply, if 95% of the people searching for ‘change car tire’ have informational intent, and you’re optimizing for transactional intent to sell tires, you’re probably not going to rank most of the time.

You can get a wealth of information from the results pages when you’re doing keyword research. If you want to find out what the intent is of people using your keywords, simply google those keywords and take a good look at the search results. Try to create your content so that it answers the specific need that you distill from the results for each keyword.

Keep reading: What is search intent? »

Tools you can use

There are multiple free tools available to help you with your keyword research. Check out our article about keyword research tools if you want to find out more about practical tools.

Adapting your keyword strategy

Your keyword strategy isn’t static. It should change and evolve alongside your company and your website. It should evolve and grow with you. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong.

You should be on top of the changes in your company and adapt your strategy simultaneously. If your online shop starts selling new products, extend your list with more keywords. If you’re aiming for new markets, it’s vital that your keywords are aimed at these new markets as well.

There are several keyword strategies to adopt. One of them is to start off trying to rank for long tail keywords and then aim at more general keywords afterwards, but you could also start by focusing on general ones then aim for more long tail keywords after. You can zoom in and pursue more niche activities, broaden your approach, adding more content on different things, or you can do both simultaneously.

2. Site structure

The second important aspect of content SEO is the structure of your site. First I will explain why site structure is critical, then I’ll show you what an ideal site structure looks like. I will also give tips on how to (quickly) improve your site structure without completely disrupting the core of your website.

Why is site structure important for content SEO?

There are two main reasons why site structure is an important ranking factor and therefore imparative for SEO content:

a. Good structure helps Google to ‘understand’ your site

The way your site is structured gives Google significant clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine understands what your site is about, and how easily it will find and index content relevant to your site’s purpose and intent. A good site structure will, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.

By creating such a structure, you can use existing content that has attracted links from others to help other pages rank as well. Your site’s structure will help spread some of that link juice to the other pages on your site. On a commercial site, that means that you can use quality content you’ve written to boost the search engine rankings of your sales pages too.

b. Good structure makes sure you are not competing with your own SEO content

On your website, you will probably have multiple articles about similar topics. At Yoast, for example, we write about SEO. If we wrote eight articles about SEO, Google wouldn’t know which of these is most important. If we didn’t clarify this with our site structure, we’d be competing with our own articles for Google’s top spot. So, solving problems like this using a sound internal linking structure will result in higher rankings overall.

The ideal structure of a site

Ideally, you should structure your site like a pyramid. On top of the pyramid is your homepage and on the homepage are links to some other pages (such as category pages). These pages, in turn, link to even more pages.

In an effective content SEO strategy, your keyword strategy and the way you structure your site work together. In a proper keyword strategy, you’ll have thought about common, competitive keywords as well as more long tail niche search terms. You should make a similar dichotomy in your site structure. Pages focusing on more common search terms should appear high in your pyramid, while pages optimized for more long tail keywords should appear in a lower part of your site structure. These long tail pages at the bottom of the pyramid must link correctly to the pages higher in the pyramid.

Read on: The ultimate guide to site structure »

Practical tips on improving your site structure

If you’re serious about content SEO, you’ll most likely already have a live website. So it may be a bit late to set up your site’s structure in an ideal pyramid-like way. Don’t despair – there are still plenty of things you can do to improve your site’s structure and your SEO content.

Decide upon cornerstone content

You should focus your efforts on cornerstone articles. These are the articles you’re most proud of, that fit the mission of your website best. This ultimate guide is, in fact, one of our cornerstones. You want to rank for these articles the most. If you haven’t decided which of your articles are the most important yet, start thinking about that now. Make these articles the best ones on your site. Give them extra TLC and update them regularly.

Keep on reading: What is cornerstone content »

Link from tail to head

Once you’ve decided upon your precious cornerstones, make sure you link from all your ‘tail’ articles to those cornerstones. That way, Google will know which articles to rank highest. Read all about this in our article about incorporating cornerstones into your site structure.

Use tags (but not too many)

Your site will also benefit from adding tags. Tags and taxonomies will give your site more structure – or at least, Google will understand it better. They group your articles about similar topics. Don’t overdo it, though. Some people have more tags than articles. Using too many tags will lead to a confusing, poorly-structured website.

Avoid duplicate content

The same SEO content can turn up at multiple places on your site. As a reader, you don’t mind: you still get the content you came for. But a search engine has to choose something to show in the search results, as it doesn’t want to show the same content twice.

Moreover, when other websites link to your product, chances are some of them link to the first URL, while others link to the second URL. But if these duplicates all link to the same URL, your chance of ranking top 10 for the relevant keyword would be much higher. Canonicalization is the solution to duplicate content. You can configure the canonical URL in the advanced tab of Yoast SEO.

Remove old SEO content

If the content on a page is outdated, remove it! However, you may have had some valuable links to that page. You want to make sure you still benefit from these links, even though the page doesn’t exist any longer, so you should redirect the URL.

Redirecting pages is not difficult if you have our Yoast SEO Premium plugin, which can help you to take care of redirects. Preferably, you redirect the old URL (301) to the page or product that replaced the old page or product, or a related page if there is no replacement. That could be the category page of the specific product, or, as a very last resort, your homepage. This way the (outdated) page won’t interfere with your site structure anymore.

Deal with orphaned content

The term ‘orphaned content’ refers to articles that don’t have any links from your other articles or posts. Because of that, these articles are hard to find, both by Google and by users of your site. Google will consider this type of content less important. So, if an article is important to you, make that clear to Google (and your visitors) by linking to that particular article from other (related) content. Read more about solving the problem of orphaned articles in our article about orphaned content.

Check out our article on how to improve your site structure in 4 simple steps for more tips and practical input.

3. Copywriting

The third and final aspect of a successful content SEO strategy is copywriting. You should write articles that are attractive to read, and that makes your audience want to stay on your website. At the same time, you want to make your SEO content attractive for Google. But some people go too far and optimize their content so overtly that they become terrible to read. At Yoast, we suggest optimizing your text for search without adversely affecting the originality of your idea or the readability of your text.

Read more: The ultimate guide to SEO copywriting »

Copywriting starts with an original idea

The first requirement for high-quality copywriting is to write original content. Your blog post or your article should be ‘fresh,’ new and original. It has to be different from all the other blog posts and articles that are already on the internet. It should be content that people will want to read.

If you did your keyword research well, you ended up with a long list of terms you want to be found for. This list can be a guide for you to choose from. A keyword is not yet a topic, though. You should make sure to come up with an original idea for your blog post – an idea in which the desired focus keyword has a prominent place.

Original SEO content doesn’t necessarily mean brand new content. Of course, if your story is completely new, that’ll automatically mean it’s original. However, giving your (professional) opinion on a particular topic also counts as original content. Your own personal angle to a story will make your content unique and original.

Think about your audience

If you want to write original content, you should think about your audience and who they are. Also, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to tell your audience?
  • What will be the main message of your article?
  • What is the purpose of your article?
  • What do you want your audience to do after they’ve read your article? (Do you want them to engage, to buy your stuff, to read more posts?)

Thinking about these questions will help you to come up with an original idea for your post or article.

Content design

Content design is a process that helps you produce content based on actual user needs. It doesn’t just help you figure out what your user wants, but it focuses more on what the user actually needs. Thinking about your content in this way will help your user to get that content when they need it, in the language and format they need it.

Content design isn’t just a technique to help you produce better content – it’s a new way of thinking about content. If you want to know more about content design, read our post on content design: a great way to make user-centered content.

Copywriting requires readable SEO content

A key requirement for writing high-quality content is to write content that’s easily readable. Readability is important both for your audience and for Google. After all, not only do people read your articles, but Google does too.

If your text is well structured and clearly written, readers will understand your message, but perhaps, more importantly, it will also help Google understand better too. If your main message is clearer to Google, your post is far more likely to rank well in the search engines.

Readability is about many factors, including text structure, sentence length and writing clear paragraphs. Read all about the importance of readability in this post. For more tips on readability, you can read our post on how to make an article more readable.

Content, context and search intent

As Google is getting smarter, it starts to understand content on sites better. It doesn’t just see if a keyword pops up a certain number of times on a page. It also takes into account the context of those keywords, like co-occurring terms and phrases, related words and synonyms. On top of that, as mentioned before, Google is able to understand queries of users better: it tries to determine what the search intent of the user is. Is he or she looking for a product or just information? Which pages fit that intent best?

All these developments mean that you should focus on more than just using your keyword often enough. It means you should also think about the words you use around it: do they make clear what topic you’re discussing? And, do you have the purpose in mind of the post or page you’re creating? Does it just provide information or are you trying to sell something, and does that align with what your users are actuall looking for? Yoast SEO Premium lets you optimize your SEO content with synonyms, making it even easier to add context to your articles.

Content should be optimized for search engines

The final requirement for writing high-quality content is to make sure the content is optimized for search engines. You want your SEO content to be easily found. Findability has to do with increasing the likelihood Google will pick up your content for the result pages. It’s important that you take this final step after you’ve written an original and readable post.

Yoast SEO helps you tweak your text just a little bit more. If you’ve written your article, focused on that original idea, and optimized the readability of your post, you should take a look at the SEO analysis in Yoast SEO. Red and orange bullets indicate which aspects of your findability need a little bit more attention. You don’t need a green bullet for every aspect though, as long as your overall score is good.

Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well. These tweaks can vastly improve your chances to be picked up by the search engines. Read more about optimizing your post in our article on how to use the content and SEO analysis.

Conclusion on Content SEO

Content SEO is such a huge part of SEO. It encompasses all the aspects of writing and structuring content on your website. Content SEO is essential. Google reads and scans your website text. Google’s algorithm decides the ranking of your site largely based on the content you publish. And we all know content is king. So, you need to write awesome SEO content, focus on the right keywords and structure your website in such a way Google understands it. It’s a lot of work, but it will pay off in the long run.

Keep reading: Blogging: the ultimate guide »

The post The ultimate guide to content SEO appeared first on Yoast.

“Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all green bullets can be addictive, but it isn’t necessarily the best way of creating great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about the green bullets on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to get a feel for how to approach the bullets feedback.

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

1. I have some red and orange bullets, so I will never rank!

Generally, the more green bullets, the more SEO fit your text is, as we’ve told you in other posts on this site. But not every bullet has to be green. The bullets indicate strengths and weaknesses in your text. They can help you easily identify some elements you could improve on. Don’t take them as gospel. They are tools, not commandments.

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished.

2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets’ feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway (or Shakespeare or any other great literary artist, for that matter) wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. It has also shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: Readability ranks! »

The post “Yoast SEO hates my writing style!” appeared first on Yoast.

How to use headings on your site

Headings help users and search engines to read and understand text. They act as signposts for the readers, and make it easier for people to understand what a post or page is about. Headings also define which parts of your content are important, and show how they’re interconnected. Here, we’ll give you pointers on how to think about and use headers to improve your content.

Why use headings?

Use headings to show text structure

Headings are signposts that guide readers through an article. Because people tend to read them carefully, they should indicate what a section or paragraph is about, or people won’t know what to expect. Also, headings may help them get back on track if they get lost.

For web copy, it’s good practice to make sure that your headings are informative to the reader. Some people like to tease their audience in the headings, trying to entice them to read further. While that can work very well, it’s easy to get wrong. Remember that the main focus of headings should be on the content – and the main purpose of headings should be to make the text easier to read and understand.

Read more: Why text structure is important for SEO »

Use headings to improve accessibility

Heading structure is important for accessibility as well, especially for people who can’t easily read from a screen. Because headings are in HTML, a screen reader can understand the article structure and read all the headings out loud.

By reading or listening to the headings in an article, visually impaired people can decide whether or not to read an article. Screen readers also offer shortcuts to jump from one heading to the next, so headings are used for navigation as well.

Don’t forget that, in many cases, what’s good for accessibility is also good for SEO!

Read more: 5 easy accessibility improvements »

Use headings to improve SEO

It’s generally agreed that how you use headings doesn’t specifically impact your SEO; making minor tweaks to individual headings likely won’t help your performance. There are indirect benefits, though. Using headings creates better quality, more easily readable text. Better text is better for users, which is better for your SEO.

And headings give you a great chance to use your focus keyword (or its synonyms) prominently, to make it really clear what the page is about. But it’s important not to over-do it. It shouldn’t feel unnatural or weird, and if it does, that’s probably because you’re trying too hard, or over-optimizing.

So with headings, you should always put the user first. Use them to add structure and signposts to your content, and to describe what each section is about. If your headings let users know what your article is about, they’ll help Google to understand, too.

How to use headings in content

How headings work in WordPress

NOTE: There are two different sets of ‘rules’ when it comes to how to use HTML heading tags; the ‘classic’ approach (from the HTML4 standard), and, the ‘modern’ approach (from the HTML5 standard). We’re going to focus on the classic approach, as there are some usability and SEO challenges with the modern approach (you can read more about that here).

When you’re editing an article in WordPress, you’ll usually see different ‘levels’ of headings in the text editor – from ‘Heading 1’ to ‘Heading 6’. These are ordered by size, and by importance. A ‘Heading 2’ is more important than a ‘Heading 4’.

Behind the scenes, these are converted into HTML heading tags; from `<h1>` to `<h6>`. Your theme probably uses these HTML tags in its templates, too.

That’s why, when we talk about how to structure headings and content well, we talk about ‘H1’ tags, ‘H2’ tags, and so on. We’re referring to the underlying HTML code.

Learning the rules

Your H1 isn’t the same thing as your page title. For more information, you can read about the difference between and H1 and the SEO title.

Firstly, you are limited to using one H1 heading on each page – Yoast SEO’s content analysis checks this. The H1 heading should be the name/title of the page or post. On this page, that’s “How to use headings on your site”. You can think of your H1 like you would think of name of a book. On a category page, your H1 would be the name of that category. On a product page, it should be the product name.

Then, as you write your content, you can use H2 and H3 headings to introduce different sections – like the “Learning the rules“ section which you’re currently reading, which sits within the “How to use headings in content” section. Think of H2 headings like the chapters of a book. Those individual sections might also use more specific headers (h3 tags, then H4 tags, etc) to introduce sub-sections.

It’s rare for most content to get ‘deep’ enough to need to use H4 tags and beyond unless you’re writing really long, or really technical content.

An example heading structure

Let’s say that we have a blog post about ballet shoes. We’ve chosen “ballet shoes” as our focus keyword, and written an article about all of the reasons why we like ballet shoes.

Without headings, there’s a risk that we might end up writing a really long, rambling piece which is hard to understand.

But if we structure things logically using headings, we not only make it easier to read, we help focus our writing.

Here’s what the structure of that post might look like:

  • H1: Ballet shoes are awesome
    • H2: Why we think ballet shoes are awesome
      • H3: They don’t just come in pink!
      • H3: They’re good for more than just dancing
      • H3: They’re not as expensive as you think
    • H2: Where should you buy your ballet shoes?
      • H3: The 10 best ballet equipment websites
      • H3: Our favourite local dancing shops

See how we’ve created a logical structure, using H2 tags to plan out sections, and H3 tags to cover specific topics? You’ll see that we’ve done the same thing in the post you’re reading, too!

We’ve also tried to mention our focus keyword – as well as some related terms – a few times (but only when it makes sense), and to outline the structure of the page. We’ve also tried to promise the reader something in each section, to encourage them to read through.

This is a good example of how your headings should be structured in medium-length article. For a shorter article, you should use fewer (or more general, high-level) headings. If you want to go into much more detail, there’s nothing stopping you from using H4 tags to create even ‘lower-level’ sections!

Headings in WordPress themes

Most themes will use headings as part of their HTML code, but some don’t follow best practice.

Almost all themes will automatically use the name of your article in a H1 tag. This is helpful, because it means you don’t need to repeat the post name inside your content.

Unfortunately, some themes use tags incorrectly – they use tags in an illogical order (e.g., a H4 then a H2), or use tags messily in sidebars, headers and footers. This can cause problems for accessibility, as the order of your headings might not make sense. Users, search engines and assistive technologies usually look at the whole page, not just your content area.

If you have a custom theme, you might be able to fix this by adjusting your HTML code. If you’re using an off-the-shelf theme, you may need to reach out to the developers.

Either way, you should check that your headings make sense on each template type!

Check your blog’s headings

Using headings well is helpful for your users, increases chances of people actually reading your article, improves accessibility and might even contribute to SEO. So add them into your copy – just make sure you use them correctly! If you want to check if you do, go and use the now to check your blog’s outline. When you’ve read and understood all the above, you should now be able to determine whether your theme is doing a good job.

If you’re still using the Classic Editor in your WordPress website, you can test your published article via the W3 Validator.

If you’re using the Block Editor in WordPress, there’s a handy button in the upper left of the content editing screen, which shows an outline of the page you’re editing.

If you’ve structured your content well, it should look something like this!

Headings in the block editor in WordPress

Read more: WordPress SEO: the definitive guide to higher rankings for your WordPress site »

The post How to use headings on your site appeared first on Yoast.

Blogging: The ultimate guide

Writing blog posts can be great fun. But, sometimes blogging can be quite a challenge as well. You may even wonder whether your website should have a blog at all. And, what should you write about? What do you do if you’re out of inspiration? How do you get engagement on your blog posts? And, how do you market and monetize your blog? This ultimate guide covers everything you need to know about blogging.

Why blog?

If you have a website of any kind, you need to blog, at least occasionally. It doesn’t matter whether you have an online shop, a personal website or portfolio. Besides it being great fun, blogging is the best thing you can do for SEO – plus your blog can be a valuable marketing tool. Let’s discuss why that is in some more detail.

Blogging for SEO

Adding content on a regular basis should be a part of every sustainable SEO strategy. If you blog regularly, Google will see your site as active, alive and relevant – and that will definitely help your overall rankings. In addition, blogging allows you to rank for new keywords and to keep ranking for those you’re already being found for. Your blog also provides you with an extra opportunity to target search intent – we’ll discuss that in more detail later on.

Why should a blogger focus on SEO?[/readmore]

Blogging as a marketing tool

A blog is a great marketing tool for every website. It allows your readers to get to know your brand and your products better. What’s more, you can use your blog to actively present yourself as a reliable source of information for prospective customers. Not everyone visiting your website is already committed to you or your products. A quality blog will work in your favor in those cases: if you can offer people useful information in a blog post, they’re more likely to remember and convert in the future.

Read more: To blog or not to blog »

Setting up a new blog

If you’re just starting a new blog, it’s important to prepare before you get started. Take some time to think about your niche and to do some proper keyword research. And, don’t forget to devise a clear and manageable structure for your blog. If you give some thought to how you want to set up your blog before you start writing, it will save you a lot of work later on.

Keep reading: How to start a blog »

What should you blog about?

You can’t blog without ideas, and you’ll need lots of them to maintain a successful blog. Whether blogging is your site’s main purpose, or you use your blog as a marketing tool: you need to think about which topics you want to cover. But where do you look for inspiration?

Keyword research

You’ll have to decide which terms you want to be found for, before you start writing your content. To decide that, you need to get inside people’s heads and find out which words they use while searching for your type of business. When you write, you’ll use these exact terms in your content to make sure you start ranking for them. Keyword research is the first step in SEO copywriting and an essential part of any successful SEO strategy.

Targetting the right search intent with your blog

As you’re doing keyword research, it’s not just important to know which keywords your audience uses, but also, what they want to find. People use search engines with a specific goal in mind, so they have a particular intent for each query. The results pages give you some insight into the intent of a query. In many cases, people are purely looking for information, so the search engines will want to show them informational pages. That’s where your blog could come in handy as a marketing tool, for instance, as an online shop. Your product page will target commercial and/or transactional intent, but you also want to rank for informational intent, as that’s more common. You can use your blog to write relevant, informative articles that’ll get more people to your site.

Which intent to target will differ, depending on your niche, and your site’s and blog’s goals. In any case, it’s a good idea to look into this when you’re deciding what to write blog posts about.

Read on: Keyword research: the Ultimate Guide »

Where do you get inspiration for your posts?

If you’ve done your keyword research properly, you’ll end up with a long list of keywords and keyphrases to write content about and you know which intent you want to target. A keyphrase is not yet a topic though. As well as a keyword, you’ll need an angle or a specific story around a keyword in order to write a decent blog post.

Current events, your own work, and comments from your readers are just some things that could inspire new blog posts. Reading a lot is also a good idea for finding inspiration. Read magazines, newspapers, and other blogs. Looking at your site’s stats or surfing on the internet could also lead to inspiration. Hot tip: keep a list of ideas for new blog posts on your mobile phone. Inspiration strikes when you least expect it.

Keep on reading: 5 tips to get inspiration for your blog »

How to write a high-quality blog post

Writing requires some skills – it’s more difficult for some people than for others. We’ll give you some tips to make writing easier for you later on, but first, let’s discuss two important aspects of high-quality blog posts: originality and readability.

Original content

Your blog posts should always be fresh, new and original. Each one should be sufficiently different from other blog posts and articles about the same topic already on the web. So, try to focus on what makes you unique, even if you’re in a competitive niche. Your blog posts should also be content that people will want to read. The increasingly fierce competition on the internet often means simply writing good content isn’t enough: you need to go the extra mile.

Read more: The importance of original content for SEO »

Readable content

After you’ve written a post with original content, you should make sure your article is easy to read. Readability is vital for your audience. If your text is well structured and clearly written, people will understand your message, but readability is also crucial for SEO. Not only do people read your text, but Google does too. If your post is easy to read, with a clear structure with subheadings and logical paragraphs, chances are it’ll rank higher in the search engines too.

Keep reading: Does readability rank? »

Practical tips on how to write awesome blog posts

Plan before you write

Before you begin, take a little time to think about what you want to write. Who is your audience and what do you want to tell them? What do you want them to know/understand/do after they have read your blog post? Which topics do you want to cover in your blog post and in what order? Answering these questions before you write will help you to write better articles.

Read on: How to start writing a blog post »

Write clear paragraphs

We advise that you always start each paragraph with the most important sentence, then explain or elaborate on it. That way, a reader will be able to grasp the most relevant content from your article, just by reading the first sentence of each of your paragraphs. Don’t make your paragraphs too long; 7 or 8 sentences is quite long enough. Think about the order of your paragraphs and remember they should follow each other logically.

Keep on reading: Practical tips to set up a clear text structure »

Get help and ask for feedback

Our Yoast SEO plugin helps you to write readable posts. For example, our readability analysis checks whether you’re using too many long sentences and whether you’re using enough transition words. This can be a great help in writing readable blog posts.

As well as using a writing tool like our readability analysis, you should always make sure that someone proofreads your blog post. A fresh pair of eyes will help correct typos and you’ll know whether someone else can understand everything you want to say in your article.

Need more guidance? Here’s a step-by-step guide to crafting the perfect blog post!

Read more: 5 tips to write readable blogposts »

Optimize blog posts for search engines

After you’ve written a blog post that’s both original and readable, you should make sure your content is optimized for search engines. You should maximize the likelihood that Google will pick up your content. It’s important that you take this final step after you’ve written your post, though. SEO should never compromise either the originality of your idea or the readability of your text.

Yoast SEO helps you improve the optimization of your blog post.

Yoast SEO can help you tweak your text, we like to call that process ‘Yoast your post‘ ;-). The red and orange bullets will indicate which aspects of your findability need attention. For example, the plugin might suggest using your focus keyword a little more often, perhaps by putting it in the first paragraph or in one of the headings. Yoast SEO will help you to optimize your snippet preview as well. In short: don’t just set the plugin and then forget about it, but use it to your advantage!

Keep reading: Use Yoast SEO to make your content findable »

Blog engagement

Blog engagement is an important factor for SEO. If your audience leaves comments on your blog (and you respond to these comments), Google will see that your blog is very much alive and active. And of course, mentions on social media will also help with your blog’s ranking. If people share your post on social media or talk about it online, that will definitely lead to more traffic.

Replying to comments is an essential aspect of blog engagement and answering questions and providing appropriate responses in a discussion can take a lot of time. Handling positive feedback and answering questions is relatively easy, while negative feedback can be more challenging. Read our post about how to handle comments for more information and practical tips.

Marketing your blog

If you’re writing posts for your blog, you need an audience. Nobody wants to perform to an empty room! Ranking well in search engines through flawless SEO will, of course, help. But there is always more you can do.

Read on: Marketing your blog »

Social media and newsletters

Social media is an important marketing instrument for your blog. You definitely need to set up a Facebook page and create a Twitter account. If you’re focusing on a young audience, you’ll need Instagram and Snapchat as well.

Also, consider starting a newsletter. Collect subscribers who want to stay informed and email them regularly.

Keep on reading: Does social media influence SEO? »

Monetizing your blog

If your audience is growing due to great SEO and marketing strategies, this doesn’t necessarily mean that profit (if you’re making money with your blog) from your blog will also grow. For many bloggers, making money is not the primary goal. Still, you can make money from a blog. Advertising, affiliate marketing, and writing promoted posts are the most common strategies for making money with a blog. As mentioned before, you could also use the blog to improve the rankings of your online shop and as a result, to sell your own stuff.

Read more: Monetizing your blog »

Maintaining a blog

Starting a blog is easier than maintaining a blog. It can be a lot of work to write blog posts on a regular basis. You don’t have to blog every day, but you should decide on a frequency and stick to it so your audience will know what to expect from you. Blogging does require some discipline.

As your blog starts to grow, you’ll probably face new SEO problems. How do you keep coming up with new content and keep your old content up to date? How do you manage different authors? What do you do when traffic to your blog is decreasing? And how will you keep the structure of your blog in shape?

Site structure of a growing blog

While your blog is growing, it’s important to regularly analyze the structure of your blog. Organize your categories, subcategories, and tags well. As your blog is growing, the structure will change and evolve. As long as you stay on top of that, your structure will remain SEO-friendly!

Content planning for a growing blog

As your blog gets bigger and attracts a larger audience, content writing becomes content planning and content managing. On larger blogs, a team of authors usually works together. Blogs are written by individual authors, but these authors still have to coordinate. Otherwise, a post with the exact same topic could appear twice. Or, authors could use a totally different style and tone of voice.

Keep reading: Content planning for a (growing) blog: 6 easy-to-use tips »

Avoiding content cannibalization as a growing blog

If you’ve been blogging in a certain niche for a long time, you’re bound to address the same topic more than once in your blog posts. That’s not necessarily a problem, but do make sure you’re not eating away at your own chances to rank. Keyword cannibalization occurs when you have several different articles that could rank for the same and similar keyphrases. When a search engine can’t tell which article should rank highest for a certain query, it’s likely both will rank lower. The solution: stay on top of this and audit your blog posts once in a while to find and fix keyword cannibalization.

Conclusion

Blogging is great! Whether your website is an online shop, blog or portfolio, it can boost your rankings in Google and is also an important and effective marketing tool. To get optimum results, devise an in-depth keyword research strategy for your blog. It’s also important to stay on top of things as your blog is growing. Use our tips to get started and write those blog posts. Happy blogging!

Read on: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

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