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

#1 Optimize speed

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

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

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File size optimization

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

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

Browser caching

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

Optimize script handling

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

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

#2 Mobile optimization

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

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Task-based design

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

Performance-based design

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

Write great content

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

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

#3 Serve your content in the right format

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

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Better social sharing: Open Graph

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

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

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

Quick reads on other platforms: AMP

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

Tell Google what your page is about: Schema.org

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

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

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

The search landscape is changing

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

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

Voice search changes everything

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

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

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

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

Google changes

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

Mobile first indexing

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

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

AMP

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

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

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Structured data: JSON+LD & Schema.org

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

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

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

Content is still king

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

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

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Did you notice Google is offering fewer options for your search results to shine? It seems like Google regularly adds a new box to the search result pages that answers searchers’ questions immediately, without them having to click on anything. For instance, type in [Blade Runner 2049] and you’ll be bombarded by four ads, a full knowledge graph panel, showtimes for the movie, top stories and Twitter feeds until you finally reach the first organic result. Google’s push to rich results not only brings challenges but also opportunities: featured snippets can make you an instant star in the search results. Find out how to get featured snippets.

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What are featured snippets

A featured snippet is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. Since this featured snippet box is situated above the regular organic search results, everybody is bound to notice this. So, you can imagine the effect that might have. Having your content as a featured snippet not only brings in a lot of traffic, but it also proves your authority on the subject – Google picked you, right?

Featured snippets often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image. The image does not necessarily have to come from the article itself. Google seems to pick it, sometimes even from the site of a competitor, although that doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Take the search result [improve mobile site] or [how to improve mobile site]; both yield a featured snippets with eight tips to improve your mobile site. I wrote and structured that article with featured snippets in mind and it paid off. By structuring the information in an easy to understand way and by giving great suggestions, Google put two and two together and found this post to provide the best answer to the question above. You can do this too.

Featured snippets let you jump to the top of the charts

Now to understand the value of featured snippets, it’s important to see how they live within the search results page. The search results page consists of several parts, among others, the organic search results, ads, and one or more dynamic search blocks. Google is increasingly trying to keep as many clicks as they can to themselves or send them to ad partners. Ads and inline search results like answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph items et cetera increasingly obfuscate organic search results. For certain searches and industries, that leaves a lot less room to shine with your organic results.

Take that Blade Runner 2049 example I mentioned in the intro. Check the screenshot below (click to enlarge), and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does prove my point. Luckily, we can try to get featured snippets to bring us an additional stream of traffic. Not to mention that answering questions is an excellent way to get your content ready for voice search.

How to write content for featured snippets

There are several ways to try and aim for featured snippets. In the list below, I’ve listed some things you need to keep in mind when writing for featured snippets:

  • Do your keyword research
  • Find out what people ask about your keywords/brand/product/service
  • Look at the ‘People also ask’ boxes for ideas
  • Use Answer the Public the find questions to answer
  • Check several current answers to see how it works
  • Find out where you could improve
  • Determine how to structure your content
  • Make your content super helpful and easy to understand
  • Keep your answers short and snappy, at a maximum of 50 words
  • Make the article easy for Google to digest, so use lists, subheadings, etc.
  • Mark up your article with structured data (although you don’t always need it)
  • Watch out that your content doesn’t become/feel unnatural
  • Not every search will yield a featured snippet (there are even regional variations)

To top it off, find a way to get people to click on the featured snippet. You don’t want people to read the featured snippet and move on. In the end, you want them on your site. Don’t give away all the answers immediately, but try to trigger people to come to your site so they can get the full picture.

Featured snippets and structured data

There’s a common misconception that you must always markup your articles with structured data if you want to get features snippets. That’s not true. The article I mentioned above doesn’t have structured data attached to it, and it still got a featured snippet. In some cases, however, it is very helpful to add structured data to your content. Case in point: recipes.

If you have content like recipes, or any type of the content types listed by Google, adding the correct structured data will improve your chances of getting a featured snippet. It’s like telling Google what your page is about by shouting it in a megaphone. Now, Google instantly understands content that has been enhanced with structured data and will use it to show it in all kinds of cool search features. If you want to learn how to apply structured data to your site so you can be rewarded the highly valued rich snippets, you should try our Structured data training.

The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio

As always, Google and only Google will pick the answers it shows in its search results if it shows them at all. In the end, there’s no magic formula for featured snippets. Google says the science behind it is very much in flux. Even the way Google finds and presents featured snippets is continually changing. For instance, Google is almost certainly looking at engagement and CTR when determining which answer to award a featured snippet box. But there are also instances where Google picks an answer from a site on the second page of the results, or even further down the list. In the end, it always boils down to the simple question: “Does my answer deliver?”

Yes, you can do it too!

Aiming for featured snippets can be good fun. It’s hard to predict whether it will work, but once you get one, it’s a blast. You can easily incorporate this when you are writing new content for featured snippets, but updating old posts is worth a shot too. If you have particular pieces of content, like recipes, for instance, structuring your content for featured snippets is almost a must. And while you’re at it, please add structured data for this type of content as it is very important as well. Now, get to it!

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You’ve probably heard us talk a lot about structured data, Schema.org and JSON-LD. Schema structured data on your site can result in highlighted search results. In this article, we’ll show you how to implement structured data using the JSON-LD Schema.org markup on the pages of your site. Here, we’ll take a closer look at how to implement structured data with Google Tag Manager.

We’ve just launched a brand new training on structured data and SEO. This training has an introductory price of $119. On July 2, this will jump to the regular price of $149.

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Structured data with Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a tool that can take your marketing to the next level without the need of a developer. It’s a tool that can easily add scripts or pieces of code to a page. There are several advantages to using Tag Manager to implement structured data.

For one, you can generate tags, triggers, and variables, which means that you can apply the same code again and again on different pages. For instance, if you have loads of recipes, you can create a tag with the variable “preparation time”, so the preparation time of every recipe will be taken from a recipe page. This means you won’t have to add the preparation time manually to the code of every single page. In the end, this will save you a lot of work.

In addition, Tag Manager features a preview mode, which allows you to check whether you successfully implemented your data immediately. Read the post Google Tag Manager: An Introduction to get started.

How Google Tag Manager works

First, you need to know about three important elements: Variables, Triggers and Tags. You can find these elements on the left-hand side of your workspace. A workspace is a place where you work on creating and adding pieces of code to your pages.

google tag manager structured data workspace

Tags

A tag is a piece of code that can be fired on a page of your website. You can put many things in a tag. For instance, you can add the Google Analytics tracking code in a tag. This tag will enable Google Analytics to track your website. Similarly, you can put your structured data code in a tag. In other words: a tag contains information as to what you want to add to a page.

Triggers

Tags only work when there’s a trigger attached. You need a way of telling Google Tag Manager under which condition a tag must be used, or fired, as we call it. If you have a structured data tag, the trigger tells Tag Manager on which pages to fire that tag. This is because it’s possible that not all your pages need a recipe structured data markup, for instance. Simply put, a trigger tells Tag Manager: “Please fire this tag on these pages, but not on these pages”.

Variables

Variables serve two functions. Firstly, triggers need variables to know whether or not to fire. Suppose Tag Manager runs on your page. If the value of the variable meets the conditions you set, the trigger will fire. This, in turn, allows the tag to work. Secondly, the variable provides Google Tag Manager with variable information. This means that the information can be different in different contexts. A Date Published, for example, will be different for every eBook you publish. If the trigger fires, Google Tag Manager will then fetch the specific value from the specific page it visits.

An example of a variable is the URL of a page, but you can use any element of a page as a variable. It could be an ‘Add to cart’ button, or the H1 of a page, for example. The most commonly used variables are predefined in Google Tag Manager. But things like buttons or the H1 are variables you have to define yourself. With variables, you can edit your code in such a way that it will take elements from the current page to use in a tag.

Adding JSON-LD to your site step by step

We’re going to guide you through implementing structured data on your pages. We’ll take the Schema.org type Course as an example. As stated, we’ll use JSON-LD markup. There are five steps to take:

  1. Make structured data
  2. Create tags and triggers
  3. Create variables
  4. Trigger your code
  5. Validate and publish

Step 1: Creating the structured data code

Produce structured data JSON-LD code, either by hand or by using Google’s Markup Helper. In this example, we’re using Course markup, which looks like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "Course",
  "name": "Site structure training",
  "description": "Learn how to create site structure for your site that makes Google understand your site and makes visitors go where they need to be",
  "provider": {
    "@type": "Organization",
    "name": "Yoast",
    "sameAs": "https://yoast.com/"
  },
      "offers": {
        "@type": "Offer",
        "price": "99",
        "priceCurrency": "USD"
  }
}
</script>

After you’ve created your markup, you have to get it ready for Google Tag Manager with Yoast’s JSON-LD Script Helper tool. Paste your code and hit Submit. The tool will create a piece of code you can use in Google Tag Manager. Copy it. You’ll need it for your new tag.

Step 2: Creating tags in Tag Manager

You’re ready to make your tags and triggers. Follow the steps below:

  • Make a new tag and give it a name (Site structure training, for instance)
  • Click Tag Configuration and choose tag type: Custom HTML
  • Paste code from the script helper tool
  • Check Support document.write
  • Hit Save

google tag manager structured data tag configuration

Step 3: Creating triggers

You need to add a trigger, so it knows when to fire the tag. You can do this on the same screen you see in the screenshot above, or directly from the Triggers screen in the Workspace. Click on the Triggering space in your new tag and choose the correct Page View. Hit Save. Your snippet is now implemented as is (see below for working with variables).

If there are no triggers yet, you can add them on the same screen. If you want a trigger to a specific page, you can copy the relevant piece of the URL and add it to a new trigger. So if you only want to trigger a tag on this page: https://yoast.com/academy/course/site-structure-training/, you need to copy the part /academy/course/site-structure-training/.

Hit the New or + button to add a new trigger. Give it a name and click on Trigger Configuration. Choose Page View from the list of trigger types and click on Some Page Views. You can now choose when the tag should trigger and which conditions should be met before it’s possible. In our case, we want to trigger the tag on https://yoast.com/academy/course/site-structure-training/. That’s why we’ll choose Page Path and Equals from the dropdown, and paste the URL into the empty box.

google tag manager structured data trigger configuration

Step 4: Creating variables

Variables make it much easier to implement the same structured data on many different sites. The variables can be found on the left-hand side of the workspace as well. You’ll see all predefined variables. There’s also an option for user-defined variables. To create a variable, click on New. After that, take the following steps:

  • Name the variable
  • Click on Variable Configuration
  • Choose Variable type
  • In this example: DOM Element

The fourth step depends on the type of tag or trigger you want to create. In this example, we’ll use a DOM Element. A DOM Element is a piece of your page, like a DIV, HTML and BODY. In this example, the DOM Element is the H1, which is the most important heading of the page.

Once you’ve clicked on the DOM Element, you need to choose which method you want to use to select a page element with. In this case, we’ll use a CSS Selector. By simply entering h1 into the Element Selector, you’ve created a variable that takes the H1 of a page.

If you want to use the meta description of a page, enter meta[name=”description”] and that variable will add the meta description of your pages.

google tag manager structured data variable configuration

Once you’ve created these variables, you can use them in your tags.

google tag manager structured data meta description

As you can see, you can use the H1 variable for the “name” and Meta description variable for the “description”. Now, the Course Schema.org markup sends the right name and description to Google.

Variables make this method of implementing structured data flexible and scalable. This way, you produce code that can be used in many places, without having to add it manually or change it for every instance. You only have to set up the tags once.

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Step 5: Test, saving and publishing

You’re ready to test your code. Tag Manager has a Preview mode that lets you test code before you publish it on a live site. Go to your Workspace to activate that mode.

In your browser, go to the page you’re implementing structured data on and refresh. You’ll see the Preview tab appear and this should show you the tags that fired. If you want to know more, you can go to the Window Loaded screen to see if your variables were executed properly. If all is well, your H1 variable should now show the same value that’s visible on the site (the title). Always test your code before publishing!

google tag manager structured data preview

If all the information displayed on this screen is correct, you can publish your tag. If there are still some flaws, go through the steps again.

To publish your tag, hit the Submit button you see at the top right. Give your version a descriptive name and press Publish. Once you’ve published your structured data tag, go to the Structured Data Testing Tool and enter the URL of the page that should now contain structured data. With this tool you can check if the structured data is implemented correctly:

google tag manager structured data end result

See no errors and warnings? Well done! If you do see errors, dive in more deeply and read what Google has to say about it.

Want to learn more about structured data? Try our brand new Structured data course!

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org and JSON-LD: the ultimate guide’ »

If you want your search results to stand out from your competition’s, you’ll need rich snippets. You’ll want to pimp your results with 5 star reviews, stock information or location, for example. To get a rich snippet, you have to learn to implement structured data. Our latest SEO course will teach you exactly how to do just that! If you buy the online structured data course now, you’ll receive a major discount. You’ll only pay $119 instead of $149.

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Practical course

The structured data course is a very practical course. We’ll first teach you some theory about SEO and why structured data is important, but then we’ll quickly dive into the practical implementation. If you buy our course, you’ll receive lots of screencasts and step-by-step examples on how to implement structured data on your own site. We’ll teach you the fancy (but hard way) to do it, but also the less elegant, quick-and-easy way. Everyone – you don’t have to be a developer! – will be able to get going with structured data after they’ve completed this course.

Watch the first video of the structured data training if you really want to know what this course has to offer:

What does the Structured data training contain?

The Structured data training consists of three modules. In the first module, we explain what structured data is and why it’s important. The second module is by far the largest and most important module. In this module, we explain exactly how to implement structured data on your site. The third module teaches you how to evaluate structured data and provides you with some useful tips.

The online course contains 6 training videos, lots of reading material and challenging questions after every lesson. The questions will test whether you really understood the material. We estimate that you’ll spend 8 hours (on average) on our course. You’ll really need to dive into the subject to fully understand this SEO topic. At the end of the course, you’ll receive a certificate and a badge to put on your site!

Maybe you’ve heard about the concept of rich snippets. SEO experts seem to think everyone knows exactly what rich snippets are. But, for SEO newbies, a rich snippet is a really vague term. What are rich snippets exactly? Time to explain what rich snippets are, why they’re important for SEO and how you can get them for your site.

What are rich snippets?

A snippet is a result Google shows to the user in the search results. An example: I was searching for a good recipe for homemade ice cream and googled it. Google showed me a results list with normal snippets and rich snippets. A normal snippet usually looks like this:

Google shows the title in blue, the URL in green and a description of what the page is about. This is what we call the snippet, the thing Yoast SEO helps you to optimize with our snippet preview.

A rich snippet shows extra information between the URL and the description. A rich snippet looks like this:

In this snippet, a picture of the ice cream is added, you can see the rating of the recipe, the time it takes to prepare this type of ice cream and the number of calories it contains. A rich snippet contains much more information than the normal snippet does. That’s why we call it a rich snippet.

Why are rich snippets important for SEO?

Rich snippets stand out from the other snippets. They look much nicer and you’ll instantly know more, just by looking at them. You’ll know whether other people liked the homemade ice cream and how long it’ll take you to make it. Rich snippets are snippets that have a higher click-through rate. People like to click on rich snippets.

If the click-through rate of a snippet increases, you’ll get more traffic from that search result. Not because your position in the search engine changed, but just because more people click on your result. In the long run, rich snippets will have an effect on your ranking as well. As more people click on your result, Google will notice that people prefer your page above other ones. That’ll definitely improve your rankings in the long run!

How do you get rich snippets?

Google can show rich snippets if you add structured data to your site. Structured data is a piece of code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to create rich snippets.

Read more: ‘What is structured data’ »

Adding structured data to your website can be quite daunting. But we’re here to help! As of tomorrow, Yoast offers an online training to teach you how to implement structured data so Google can show rich snippets. We’ll show you different strategies (from beginner to more advanced levels), so that everyone will be able to get started with structured data and get those rich snippets!

Keep reading: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

Do you want to increase chances people click on your page in the search results? Want to learn how to get those awesome rich snippets? Next week, we’ll launch our Structured data training. In this new training, you’ll learn how structured data can influence the appearance of your pages in the search results. After completing this course, you’ll be able to add structured data yourself, so Google can show a rich snippet.

Why take our structured data training?

A normal snippet of a recipe looks like this:

You see a title, a URL and a description of a page. If you add structured data to your page, Google (or another search engine) can transform your snippet into this:

So the structured data you add can show up in the snippet. For recipes you can add ratings and reviews, cooking time, calories and an awesome picture. Not only for recipes, but also for books, movies, articles, products etc. structured data exists.

Rich snippets let your page stand out from the other search results in Google. And if your page stands out in the search results, chances are much higher people will click on it.

Is adding structured data hard?

Adding structured data is not very hard, but you do need to know what you’re doing. After some training, everyone should be able to add structured data and get rewarded with those desired rich snippets!

We’ve created a very practical online training in which we take you through all the steps of adding structured data to a site. We’ll first explain the theory and then we’ll show you screencasts that will guide you through the steps you need to take. We’ll discuss multiple strategies you can use to add structured data to a website. Some strategies are more advanced (and more daunting) than others. At the end of the course, you’ll be able to add structured data in multiple ways. Just choose which strategy fits you best and start working on those awesome rich snippets yourself!

Want to buy our course?

The structured data training will be available as of June 29. You can purchase the course for the introductory price of $119 until July 2. You’ll get access to over 75 minutes of training videos, lots and lots of reading material and challenging quiz questions. If you finish our course, you’ll receive a certificate and a badge to put on your site. If you buy one of our courses, you’ll also get access to the Yoast Updates. These updates keep you in the loop about new trends in SEO and WordPress every 3 months.

Want to know more?

Check out the Structured data training and make sure you won’t miss the launch by subscribing to our newsletter!

Not the right training for you? We offer lots of other SEO courses. See which one fits your needs best!

Google Search Console is an incredibly important tool for website owners. This tool shows you how your site appears in the Google search results. It also shows you what to improve to make the most of your listings in the results. One of the many cool features of Search Console is the structured data analyses found in the Search Appearance section. Let’s dive into that!

In this post, we’ll cover the Structured data tab in GSC, the Rich Cards tab and the Data Highlighter. If you don’t have Search Console yet – and you really should -, sign up on Google’s website.

Google search console home

Search Appearance

First, log into Search Console. On the left-hand side of your screen, you’ll find the Search Appearance menu item. This tool gives you insights into how your website appears in the search results. You can click any item to see how Google treats your site.

Structured Data

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In this post, our main focal point is structured data, so we’ll jump to the Structured Data section of GSC. Clicking on Structured Data will show you an overview of all the pages that have some kind of structured data attached to it. This could be in any form, like RDFa or Microdata, but usually, it will be in JSON-LD.

Structured data is all the extra information you give search engines to understand what a page is about. For instance, as the writer of this article, I am both a Person and an Author. If I add this data to the source code of this page, search engines can use that data to do cool things. If you sell products, you can enhance your search listings with reviews and ratings, prices and availability. These might all become visible in the search results.

Rich snippets products

Google Search Console shows a red line for the pages on your site that have incorrectly implemented structured data. Red indicate items with errors. You’ll notice that Search Console automatically sorts the list by the number of errors on a page. This way, you can start by fixing the most important issues first.

Google search console graph

Click on the lines in the table to see which pages have errors with the selected data type. Use these errors to prioritize your work. The big graph shows the progression of your structured data implementation as seen by Google. Let’s see how that works.

We’re going to take a closer look at the data. Above the graph, we see how many structured data items Google has found on how many pages, in this case, 218 items on 56 pages. Look closely at the left and right-hand side of the graph. The left side – in blue – goes from zero to 240 and this shows the number of pages with structured data items. The right side – in red – goes from zero to sixteen and shows the number of errors. At the bottom of the image, you see all the different data types Google has found on your site and all the items that have errors.

Errors

Now that we’ve analyzed all the different data on the structured data tab, it’s time to look at our errors. So click on an item with errors.

Google search console errors

After clicking on an error you’ll see this screen. This is where all the errors are listed individually. It’s the same kind of information as the screen before this one, so I won’t cover it again. However, now click on the individual error to see what happens:

Google search console popup

When we clicked on the individual error, a pop-up appeared. It shows information of the domain we’re on, information about the data item that gives an error and a button to test it with the Structured Data Testing Tool. Try to test with live data because GSC might give you an incorrect message. Also, the Structured Data Testing Tool allows you to tweak the code until it doesn’t give an error anymore. This way, you can safely test and improve on the error. Let’s move on to Rich Cards.

Rich Cards

Rich cards are new ways of presenting search results. These results are often amended with special, rich search features that make the results more interactive. For instance, a recipe site might get swipeable cards in the search results or a restaurant might get an option to immediately reserve a seat from the results. These are just a couple of examples. And since this is one of the areas Google is increasingly focussing on, you’ll see a lot more of these in the coming years.

Rich cards aren’t that different from structured data types. You can see structured data as the language used to describe the content on a page, while a rich card is a visually compelling way to present search results. And yes, more often than not, rich cards rely on the structured data that Google finds on a page. That’s why the Rich Cards tab is kind of complementary to the Structured Data tab instead of it superseding it. 

By the way, these are all the rich cards Google creates.

Add structured data to your site, validate it and you’re ready to get rich cards. If Google deems your site the best possible result, that is. In Search Appearance, you can check if your implementation is correct and if Google has already awarded you rich cards.

Google search console rich cards overview

Click on the Rich Cards tab and you’ll see a graph like the one above. On top of the graph, you can tick and untick the boxes. We’ve got invalid cards, cards that can be improved and correct cards. You can probably guess that each box shows a different graph. Also, our issues are sorted by severity. First, we’ll try and find out what our critical issues are by clicking on them.

Google search console rich cards

Now we see all the individual URLs with errors. We know that these are all image-related problems because that’s mentioned in the previous screenshot. Just click on one of the URLs.

Google search console cards popup

A pop-up will appear, similar to the one in the Structured Data tab. It gives you the option to test your live data and read the card documentation. You always want to double check your live data with the Structured Data Testing Tool. As said before, you can edit the code right away and see whether your changes validate. All good now? Great, you can start to implement your new code.

Data Highlighter

The Data Highlighter is a tool within GSC that allows you to markup your pages without any knowledge of coding. There are a couple of things you need to know before you start marking up your structured data with Google’s Data Highlighter. Firstly, your highlighted data is stored in Google’s databases, not on your site itself. Since the data is stored externally from your site, other search engines won’t be able to benefit from it. Ask yourself if you want this. Secondly, Data Highlighter only offers a limited set of schema you can implement. So it won’t be for everyone.

The Data Highlighter does make fixing the issues you’ve found in the Structured Data section easier. For instance, choose one of the URLs that had a faulty Structured Data setup and tell GSC what kind of information you want to highlight.

This will bring you to a live view of that page and you’ll be able to select any element on the page. By selecting an element you’ll be given a choice of what you want to highlight that specific element for. For example, for a Product, you’ll be given these markups to add to the corresponding element on the page:

google search console data highlighter

This makes adding Structured Data, for Google at least, as easy as a few clicks.

You can find the Data Highlighter under the Search Appearance section. Click on the “Start highlighting” button and you’ll see a new screen. Now we can fill in the URL (a product page, for example), select the type of markup we’d like to implement (Product Schema.org) and select if we just want to markup this single page or similar pages like it as well. We’ll only show multiple pages because marking up single pages shares the same core functionalities – only with fewer steps.

You can easily select elements on a page. Google automatically shows the available Schema.org you can select, see the first arrow. Once selected, you’ll see an overview of the data items on that page, check the second arrow. When you’re done, you click on finished – it’s the big red button in the top right corner.

google search console data highlighter save

In the end, Google shows you random pages from your selection to check the implementation. You can verify whether the information holds true for all of your products:

● Did Google unexpectedly include a page it shouldn’t have? Click Remove page.
● Did Google mistakenly apply the wrong Schema? You can correct it by selecting the element and change the Schema.
● Did Google do it right? Just click Next.

The Google Data Highlighter is just one of the tools that helps you implement structured data with Schema.org. It is, however, fully tied into the Google ecosystem and might not be the best option when you want to keep full control over your data.

You’ve reached the end…

Structured data gives you an excellent opportunity to open a conversation with search engines. By adding structured data, you make your site instantly comprehensible for engines. This way, they can use your data to present your content in innovative, highly visible ways that are guaranteed to catch the eye of your customers or readers.

Structured data is becoming so important that we’ve developed a course to educate you on this subject. In this course, we’ll show you exactly what structured data encompasses, what it can do, how to implement it using JSON-LD and Google Tag Manager, and how to check its performance in Google Search Console. This course will be available from June 29.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Keep an eye on yoast.com for more articles on structured data and SEO. And don’t forget to sign up for our brand new Structured data course!

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

Perhaps you’ve heard about it: Google Tag Manager. Google introduced this tool 5 years ago, a tool that would make marketers less dependent on developers and that would, therefore, speed up your marketing process. Google Tag Manager has evolved over the years becoming a more complete and easy to use tool. Here I want to explain why you should sign up today, if you aren’t using Google Tag Manager already. 

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Before I go on to introduce Tag Manager, I do want to say a word of warning. Tag Manager is a powerful tool, and like any power tool, it should be used with care. Don’t just add tags that look appealing to you but you don’t fully understand. For instance, you might bring in a tag that could harm your site because the code is not safe. Or use a tag that influences your data tracking. If you’re not sure or in doubt of a certain tag, have someone who knows JavaScript take a look at it. Luckily, Tag Manager has a great Preview and Debug mode that lets you validate code before you publish.

What is Google Tag Manager?

If you have closer look at the term Google Tag Manager, you can guess what it’s about. It’s a tool developed by Google to manage your tags. But then the next question arises: what’s a tag? A tag is a snippet of code. There’s a whole bunch of analytics and marketing tools out there that work with JavaScript code. For instance, the Google Analytics tracking code – the one you add to your site to track your site’s traffic with Google Analytics – is JavaScript code.

Did you ever had to wait for a developer to add a piece of JavaScript to your site? Or to test whether that code wasn’t harming your website? Then you know how much valuable time that can take. With Google Tag Manager you can add these pieces of JavaScript or tags yourself. Google Tag Manager even has the ability to test whether you’ve implemented the tag correctly.

Running every tag from Google Tag Manager has two big advantages. First of all, you’ll have an overview of the tags you’ve added. Secondly, you’re in full control of measuring the effects of your marketing efforts.

What can you use it for?

Because Google Tag Manager allows you to add JavaScript to your site, you can use it for a lot of things. You can use it to get more insight in the behaviour of visitors on your site – ‘events’ like clicking on a button – but also to get tags of third party tools on your site. It will even help you to add structured data to your pages!

Google Analytics and Tag Manager

One of the most used tags that’s managed in Google Tag Manager is the Google Analytics tag. Not only can you add the Google Analytics tracking code. You can use Google Tag Manager to create, for instance, custom dimensions, events or content grouping. This means that you can track if people click on your buttons, if they scroll down to a certain point on your page, if they watch your videos and so on. All the cool things you can do with Google Analytics events, can now be managed in Google Tag Manager. And you won’t need a developer for it!

Other third party tools

Google Tag Manager supports a lot of third party tags, like: Adwords, Adobe Analytics, Bing ads, Hotjar, Crazyegg and so on. You can find the complete list on the Google Google Tag Manager support forum. You can use Hotjar tags to finally get those heatmaps – a visual representation of where people click on your site – you wanted to have. Or run surveys and A/B tests on your site. Getting data like that can help you bring your conversion rate to the next level.

Google Tag Manager and structured data

But there’s more! You can also use Google Tag Manager to implement structured data on your site. Structured data is extra information you add to your page in a specific format. Google can show this information in the search results, which makes it more likely people click on your result and engage with your page.

At the moment, we’re working on a new and practical course about structured data. In this course, you’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. Don’t miss the launch and keep an eye on our newsletter!

Where to find Google Tag Manager?

Google is ubiquitous with its tools. If you visit: google.com/analytics/  you can see all tools Google has developed to help you with your marketing strategy. In addition to Google Analytics, there are tools to help you boost conversion or perform customer surveys. And, of course, there’s Google Tag Manager. You can sign up for free! Wait! Free, you say? Yes, free!! So what’s stopping you?

After you’ve signed up, you can create an account for your website, your iOS or Android app or your AMP pages:

Create a container in Google Tag Manager

Just provide the URL of your site as the container name and then select web – if you want to implement it on your website. After you’ve created this container, Google Tag Manager will ask you to add a piece of code in the <head> and <body> of the page. I promise, this is one of the few things you might need a developer for, when it comes to using Google Tag Manager.

install Google Tag manager on your site

Luckily, if you’re using WordPress, you can easily add the Google Tag Manager code using a plugin called DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress. Please note that you only have to use the GTM-XXXX code.

If you’re using another CMS, please check out the quick install guide for more information on how to get started.

After you’ve inserted the Google Tag Manager code to your pages, you’re ready to create your own tags. This can be done in a so called workspace that looks like this:

So now you’re all set up and ready to add those tags to your site.

And now?

We’ll be doing more posts on Google Tag Manager soon. Explaining the practical side of things like how to create variables, triggers and tags, and how to implement structured data with it. We’ll also help you understand how to combine Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics to use it to its full extent. So stay tuned!

Read more: ‘How to use Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics’ »

You might have heard about structured data, schema.org and JSON-LD. But what do these terms mean exactly? What is structured data? What does structured data do? And what does it have to do with SEO?  For all of you who don’t know what structured data is: this post will make it clear to you! 

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What is structured data?

Structured data is code. It’s a piece of code that you can put on your website. It’s code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a specific way.

Imagine you have a website with a lot of recipes. If you add structured data to a page with a recipe, your result in the search engines will change. It will be much “richer” in terms of content that’s shown. That’s the reason we call these results rich snippets. This is what a rich snippet looks like:

Besides the title, the URL and the description of the search result, you can see how long it will take to make the absolute best ever lasagna. And, you’ll see how many calories the lasagne contains. You need to add structured data to your web page to get such a rich snippet.

There are all kinds of structured data. Structured data is always a code format. There’s structured data for books, for reviews, for movies, and for products in your online store, for instance. In all cases, structured data adds more details to your snippet in the search results.

We have to make one side note here. Unfortunately Google does not always create a rich snippet of your page, even if you’ve added the structured data. There are no guarantees. So all you can do, is add it to your page, and hope Google will pick it up!

What do you do with structured data?

With structured data, you can “talk” to the search engines. You can tell the search engines which ingredients there are in your recipe, you can tell them how long the preparation time is and you can tell them how many calories the dish will contain. Google will be able to instantly grasp all that information and can decide to show it in the search results.

So structured data is a tool you can use to tell Google (in a way it totally understands what you’re saying) detailed information about a page on your website. Google then will be able to use this information to create informative (rich) search results. And audiences love these rich snippets!

What is schema.org?

The big search engines have developed the project schema.org. On schema.org you can find all the structured data markup supported by the search engines. This makes Schema.org is a really large taxonomy of pieces of code.

You can use schema.org to find the markup you need for your specific page. For instance, if you sell t-shirt on your site, you could show what color t-shirts you sell and what sizes you offer in your snippet. You should investigate schema.org/Product and find out the possibilities.

On schema.org, you can copy exact code examples. After copying it, you’ll have to adapt the code to your own specific preferences.

Schema.org is a taxonomy of code formats that the large search engines understand. You’ll find examples of how the code looks like. There are other forms of structured data as well. For instance Open Graph (used by Facebook) and Twitter cards (used by Twitter).

What is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD is one of the markups of Schema.org. It’s just a way to write code. On schema.org, you’ll also find other mark-ups like Microdata or RDFa. At Yoast, we’ll advise you to always use JSON-LD, because it does not break your site as easily as other markups do. You can – relatively easily – add JSON-LD to your website using Google Tag Manager. That’s not possible with the other markups.

Why is structured data important for SEO?

Structured data is important for SEO because it’ll make it easier for Google to grasp what your pages and your website are about. Google needs to find out what a page is about to show it in the search results. Using structured data is like talking to Google, telling Google what your site is about. That’ll help with your rankings.

On top of that, structured data will change the way your snippet (your search results) will look like. It’ll show more information to your customer. More specific information. And this will increase the likelihood a customer will click on your results. More clicks will eventually lead to even higher rankings!

How to use structured data?

Using structured data sounds hard, but everyone can do it (with the proper training). You have to get the right code, you’ll have to adapt that code and you’ll need to use Google Tag Manager to put it on your site.

Currently we’re working on a practical training to help you get structured data on your site! You’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. So keep an eye on our newsletter if you don’t want to miss it. 

We already have written a lot of post about schema.org and JSON-LD, which will help you to understand more about this subject.

No code hero? Use a plugin!

A lot of structured data markup can also be added to your website using plugins. Our local SEO plugin, for instance, uses structured data to show the location or multiple locations of your store. You don’t have to write code to get that rich snippet, you’ll just use our plugin, fill out some details and we’ll do it for you. And there are many more plugins that’ll help you to use structured data without need to struggle with any code!

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »