What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console (or ‘GSC’ for short) lets webmasters monitor and manage their websites through an official portal, and is crammed full with useful statistics. Having access to tools and data provided directly by the search engines can make optimizing your website much easier!

It’s a communication channel

Search Console accounts are the main, and official way in which Google communicates with individual site owners. By having a registered account, Google can send webmasters information about site issues, errors, or even penalties. It also provides some limited tools to allow you to contact them about site issues and feature requests.

It’s a control center

If you’re actively optimizing your website, you’ll understand that SEO is never ‘finished’. You need to be continually improving your content, refining your site settings, and minimizing your errors.

Search Console provides tools which help with this day-to-day management. It lets you do things like submit and monitor your XML sitemaps, ask Google to (re)evaluate your errors, or see how Google sees particular pages and URLs on your site.

XML Sitemap management in Google Search Console

It’s a performance dashboard

Your GSC account is full of useful information about how your website is shown and performing in search results. From mobile usability reports to visibility and clickthrough tracking, and much more.

If you’re serious about managing and optimizing your website, your GSC account is your nerve center for understanding when, where and how your site is appearing in Google.

Performance overview in Google Search Console

It’s a data source

Most of the data in Google Search Console can be extracted and integrated into other systems, like Google Analytics, and Yoast SEO!

That means that, if you’re running a Yoast SEO plugin, you can integrate some of your GSC data directly into your website. This can make it much easier to manage your errors, analysis, and redirects!

Check out our great guide on how to get that hooked up, and how to take advantage of the integration.

Ready to get started?

Anybody who runs or manages a website should be able to access a Google Search Console account, for free.

There are a few different ways to create and authorize your account, but the easiest is to integrate through Yoast SEO – just follow this quick guide to get things running!

Once you’re all set up, why not take a tour around Google Search Console with our great beginner’s guide?

The post What is Google Search Console? appeared first on Yoast.

The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console

Do you have your own website or maintain the website of the company you work for? Of course, to do this right, you need to keep a keen eye on the performance of your website. Google offers several tools to collect and analyze data of your website. You probably have heard of Google Analytics and Google Search Console before. These tools are free to use for everyone maintaining a website and can give you very valuable insights about your website.

Why everyone with a website should use Google Search Console

Google Search Console has been created to easily track the performance of your website. You can get valuable insights out of your Google Search Console account which means that you can see what part of your website needs work. This can be a technical part of your website, such as an increasing number of crawl errors that need to be fixed. This can also be giving a specific keyword more attention because the rankings or impressions are decreasing.

Besides seeing this kind of data, you’ll get mail notifications when new errors are noticed by Google Search Console. Because of these notifications, you’re quickly aware of issues you need to fix.

Setting up an account

To start using Google Search Console, you’ll need to create an account. Within the new Google Search Console, you can click on ‘add a new property’ in the top bar:

Google search console - add property

Clicking on the ‘Add a property’ button, you can insert the website you want to add. Make sure you add the right URL, so with ‘https’ if you have an https website and with or without ‘www’. For collecting the right data, it’s important to add the right version:

When you’ve added a website, you need to verify that you’re the owner. There are several options to verify your ownership.

For WordPress users who use Yoast SEO we recommend using the ‘HTML tag’ method:

You can easily copy this code and paste it into the ‘Webmaster tools’ tab within the Yoast SEO plugin:

After saving this, you can return to Google Search Console and click on the ‘Verify’ button to confirm. If everything is ok, you’ll get a success message and GSC will start collecting data for your website.

Features in Google Search Console

Now you’ve set up your account what would be the next step? Well, it’s time to look at some of your data! We’ll explore some of the reports and information available in the rest of this article.

Performance

Within the performance tab, you can see what pages and what keywords your website ranks for in Google. In the old version of GSC you could see the data of a maximum of the last 90 days but in the new version, it’s possible to see the data up to 16 months. Keep in mind that the data is available from the moment you set up your account.

If you check the performance tab regularly, you can quickly see what keywords or what pages need some more attention and optimization. So where to begin? Within the performance tab, you see a list of ‘queries’, ‘pages’, ‘countries’ or ‘devices’. Each of those sections can be sorted by the number of ‘clicks’, ‘impressions’, ‘average CTR’ or ‘average position’. We’ll explain each of them below:

Google search console - performance

1. Clicks

The amount of clicks tells you how often people clicked on your website in the search results of Google. This number can tell something about the performance of your page titles and meta descriptions: if just a few people click on your result, your result might not stand out in the search results. It could be helpful to check what other results are displayed around you to see what can be optimized for your snippet.

The position of the search result also has an impact on the number of clicks of course. If your page is in the top 3 of Google’s first result page it will automatically get more clicks than a page that ranks on the second page of the search results.

2. Impressions

The impressions tell you how often your website in general or how often a specific page is shown in the search results. For example, in the GSC account of our own website, Yoast SEO is one of the keywords our website ranks for. The number of impressions shown after this keyword shows how often our website is shown for that keyword in the search results of Google. You don’t know yet what page ranks for that keyword.

To see what pages might rank for the specific keyword, you can click on the line of the keyword. Doing this for the keyword [Yoast SEO], the keyword is added as a filter:

Keyword filter

After that, you could navigate to the ‘Pages’ tab to see what pages exactly rank for this keyword. Are those pages the ones you’d want to rank for that keyword? If not, you might need to optimize the page you’d like to rank. Think of writing better content containing the keyword on that page, adding internal links from relevant pages or posts to the page, making the page load faster, etc.

3. Average CTR

The CTR – Click-through rate – tells you what percentage of the people that have seen your website in the search results also clicked through to your website. You probably understand that higher rankings mostly also lead to higher click-through rates.

However, there are also things you can do yourself to increase the CTR. For example, you could rewrite your meta description and make it more appealing. When the description of your site stands out from the other results, more people will probably click on your result and your CTR will increase. Keep in mind that this will not have a big impact if you’re not ranking on the first page yet. You might need to try other things first to improve your ranking.

4. Average position

The last one in this list is the ‘Average position’. This tells you what the average ranking of a specific keyword or page was in the time period you’ve selected. Of course, this position isn’t always reliable since more and more people seem to get different search results. Google seems to understand better and better which results fit best for which visitor. However, this indicator still gives you an idea if the clicks, impressions and the average CTR are explainable.

Index coverage

A more technical but very valuable tab within Google Search Console is the ‘Index coverage’ tab. This section shows how many pages are in the index of Google since the last update, how many pages aren’t and what errors and warnings caused difficulties for Google indexing your pages properly.

Index coverageWe recommend checking this tab regularly to see what errors and warnings appear on your website. However, you also get notifications when Google has found new errors. When you get such a notification you can check the error in more detail here.

You may find that errors are caused when, e.g., a redirect doesn’t seem to work correctly, or Google is finding broken code or error pages in your theme.

Clicking on the link, you can analyze the error more in depth to see what specific URLs are affected. When you’ve fixed the error you can mark it as fixed to make sure Google will test the URL again:

Submitted URL not found (404)

There are a few things you should always look for when checking out your coverage reports:

  • If you’re writing new content, your indexed pages should be a steadily increasing number. This tells you two things: Google can index your site and you keep your site ‘alive’ by adding content.
  • Watch out for sudden drops! This might mean that Google is having trouble accessing (all of) your website. Something may be blocking Google; whether it’s robots.txt changes or a server that’s down: you need to look into it!
  • Sudden (and unexpected) spikes in the graph might mean an issue with duplicate content (such as both www and non-www, wrong canonicals, etc.), automatically generated pages, or even hacks.

We recommend that you monitor these types of situations closely and resolve errors quickly, as too many errors could send a signal of low quality (bad maintenance) to Google.

AMP

Below the ‘Index coverage,’ you can find the ‘AMP’ tab. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages: lightning fast mobile pages. If you’ve set up AMP for your website you can check for errors in Google Search Console. Within this section you can see the valid AMP pages, the valid ones with warnings and errors:

AMP errorBelow the chart, the issues are listed. If you click on one of the issues, you can see the affected URLs. Just as in the index section of GSC you can validate your fix if you’ve fixed an issue.

Job Postings

Within this tab, you’ll be able to list your job openings and to track their performance. If there are any errors, you’ll see them in here. It’s not the most important feature of GSC, but it can be valuable for specific companies or websites.

Events

This section provides useful feedback on your structured markup for events. Events can be complex to tag up correctly, so this can be an extremely helpful report for finding out where you need to tweak details like dates and location!

Sitemaps

An XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all important pages and posts on your website. We think every website would benefit from having one. Is our Yoast SEO plugin running on your website? Then you automatically have an XML sitemap. If not, we recommend creating one to make sure Google can find your most important pages and posts easily.

Within the XML sitemap tab of Google Search Console you can tell Google where your XML sitemap is located on your site:

Add a new sitemap

We recommend everyone entering the URL of their XML sitemap into GSC to make Google find it easily. In addition to that, you can quickly see if your sitemap gives errors or if some pages aren’t indexed, for instance. Checking this regularly, you’re sure Google can find and read your XML sitemap correctly.

We recommend regularly checking the XML sitemap section in our plugin to manage which post types or taxonomies you’re including in your sitemaps!

Links

Within the links to your site section, you can see how many links from other sites are pointing to your website. Besides, you can see what websites link, how many links those websites contain to your site and lastly, what anchor texts are used most linking to your website. This can be valuable information because links still are very important for SEO.

Within the internal links section, you can check what pages of your website are most linked from other spots on your site. This list can be valuable to analyze regularly because you want your most important pages and posts to get most internal links. Doing this, you make sure Google understands as well what your cornerstones are.

Mobile usability

The mobile usability tab within this section shows you usability issues with your mobile website or with specific mobile pages. Since mobile traffic is rising all over the world, we recommend checking this regularly. If your mobile site isn’t user-friendly, lots of visitors will leave it quickly.

Manual Actions

The manual actions tab is the one you don’t want to see anything in. If your site is penalized by Google, you’ll get more information in here. If your site is affected by a manual action, you’ll also get messaged via email.

There are a number of scenarios which can lead to these kinds of penalties, including:

  • You have unnatural/bought links
    Make sure from and to your site are valuable, not just for SEO. Preferably your links come from and link to related content that is valuable for your readers.
  • Your site has been hacked
    A message stating your site’s probably hacked by a third party. Google might label your site as compromised or lower your rankings.
  • You’re hiding something from Google
    If you’re ‘cloaking’ (that is, intentionally showing different to content than to users, for the purposes of decieving either of them), or using ‘sneaky’ redirects (e.g., hiding affiliate URLs), then you’re violating of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Plain Spam
    Automatically generated content, scraped content and aggressive cloaking could cause Google to blacklist your site.
  • Spammy structured markup
    If you use rich snippets for too many irrelevant elements on a page, or mark up content that is hidden to the visitor, that might be considered spammy. Mark up what’s necessary, and not everything is necessary.

Missing features in the new version of Google Search Console

As you might have noticed not all features are integrated yet into the new version of Google Search Console. Google explains that this could have two reasons: they may have found a better way of presenting the data or they’re still in the process of migrating the feature to the new version. As said before, we’ll update this post when there’s progress made in the migration.

The old version of GSC is still available for everyone. So, why should you switch back to the old version once in a while? We’ll list the features that are missing in the new version, but that seems valuable to keep an eye on, below.

Search appearance

From the ‘Search appearance’ section of the old Google Search Console, we miss the following features in the new version: ‘Structured data‘, ‘Rich cards‘, ‘Data highlighter‘ and the ‘HTML improvements‘.

If you’ve added structured data to your website we recommend checking the structured data tab of the old version regularly. Here you’ll see if all structured data is recognized by Google and errors will be listed. If you’ve added structured data meant for rich cards, you can check for errors in the rich cards tab. The data highlighter can be used to markup your pages without having to code yourself. You can read more in-depth about Google Search Console and structured data here.

In the last missing feature of the search appearance tab, the HTML improvements, you can easily check, for instance, for duplicate titles or quite short titles which can be improved. These listings can be an easy pick: optimizing your titles and meta descriptions might increase your rankings and CTR.

International targeting

The international targeting tab is important for websites who have pages in different languages and who target people in different countries or regions. When you’ve implemented hreflang to your website, you can check for errors within this section of GSC.

Crawl stats

In the crawl tab, you can find the sections ‘Crawl errors’, ‘Crawl stats’, ‘Fetch as Google’, ‘Robots.txt tester’, ‘Sitemaps’ and ‘URL parameters’.

It seems that you can find some crawl errors in the new index coverage tag but if we look at our account, we don’t see all crawl errors in the new version. This means that it’s important to check your crawl errors still in the old version of GSC. When you’ve fixed a crawl error you can mark it as fixed. The crawl stats aren’t included yet so you can find those stats in the old version.

The crawl stats tell you something about how many pages are crawled per day, how many kilobytes are downloaded per day and how many time was spent downloading a page. If one of the graphs seem to decrease, you know it’s time to do something about it.

The fetch as Google feature gives you the opportunity to see if Google can access a specific page correctly, how it exactly renders the page and if there are blocked resources on the page. You can test your pages both for desktop as for mobile to see the differences between those.

The robots.txt tester is made to add your robots.txt and to test if any errors or warnings seem to appear. You can also add specific URLs to check whether they’re blocked or not.

The sitemaps are already moved to the new version of GSC so it’s time for the last feature of the crawl tab: URL parameters. In the URL Parameters section, you can add parameters for your website and ‘tell’ Google how they should be handled. If you want to use this, we recommend reading the guidelines carefully. Don’t just add some parameters to see what happens. This can cause serious problems with your site’s SEO.

Security issues

Last but not least: within the security issues tab you’ll get a notification when your website seems to have a security issue.

Do you already use Google Search Console for your website? If not, we definitely recommend creating an account so you can start collecting data about your website. Do you think something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment!

Read on: How to make your site stand out in the search results »

 

The post The beginner’s guide to Google Search Console appeared first on Yoast.

SEO basics: What are long tail keywords?

“If you want your posts to rank, you should write about long tail keywords”. You’ve probably seen this common SEO advice before. But what do we mean by long tail keywords? And why should you write about them? Here, we’ll explain what long tail keywords are and how they can help you rank. Including examples!

What are long tail keywords?

In SEO, we distinguish between head keywords and long tail keywords. A long tail keyword is more specific than a head keyword, and most of the times – but not necessarily – it consists of more words. The head keyword is a general term lots of people write about. A long tail keyword is a more specific topic or a subtopic of the head term. Usually, less people create content about this topic.

How do they help you rank?

The idea is quite simple. As mentioned above, there is less content on the web about long tail keywords, because less people have written about them. Less content means less competition! Because the competition isn’t that fierce, it’s easier to beat other web pages with content about long tail keywords in search engines.

In addition, you might find that it’s easier to target a specific search intent with long tail keywords. Search intent is the why behind a search: does someone just want information or is he/she looking to buy something? Or something else entirely?

Long tail graphic

This illustration shows that a more specific topic (or keyphrase) means less competition

Example of a long tail keyword

Let’s look at an example. An example of a head keyword or keyphrase is [educational books for children]. There are many booksellers, publishers and bloggers writing about educational books. If you just start out with your website, it’d be virtually impossible to rank for this term. You’d have to compete with Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and the likes.

What you should try is focusing on a niche for your blog or your shop. Finding a niche means targeting a very specific group of people. You can do so by creating very specific content: content about long tail keywords! An examples of a long tail keyword could be: [educational books for autistic teenagers]. If you write high quality content about a specialized topic like that, you can beat the competition for those long tail terms. Also, if you are targeting searchers who have an intent to buy books, you can include that term and focus your content on answering this search — maybe throw in a local search as well: [where to buy educational books for autistic teenagers in Vancouver].

Learn all about picking the right keywords for your audience with our Keyword research training »

Long term strategy

You might think: “But I want to rank for the head keyword. That one gets loads of traffic!” It does, but if you rank page 10 for that query, you won’t get much out of it. It might drive a lot of traffic, but nothing that’ll convert to sales or inquiries. So we’d advise to start with the less competitive, long tail keywords. When you’ve written several articles about related long tail keywords and you rank for those, you can aim for a term that gets closer to the head term.

Let’s go back to the example of [educational books for autistic teenagers]. You could write about [educational books for autistic preschoolers], [picture books for autistic children] and [reading stories to your autistic child] too. This way Google will find out you have quite a bit of specialized content on this topic.

If you bundle all this knowledge in one cornerstone article, for instance, [educational books for autistic children] and you make sure you link from all your long tail articles to this main article, you’ll increase your chance of ranking for the main article.

If this works, you can start writing high quality content about other types of educational books for children. Slowly but surely, you’ll be getting closer to the head terms. We call this a cornerstone content strategy.

Higher conversions too!

Less competition isn’t the only advantage of writing about long tail keywords. If you focus on a niche, your visitors will more easily convert into customers, newsletter subscribers or whatever you’re aiming for — especially if you cater to their search intent. Let’s say your visitors are looking for a very specific type of book. If they land on your site, specialized in exactly those kind of books, they’ll likely find and buy the books they’re looking for. Just another reason to focus on the long tail!

Read more: All about long tail keywords and why they deserve your focus! »

The post SEO basics: What are long tail keywords? appeared first on Yoast.

SEO basics: What are rich snippets?

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’ »

SEO basics: What is structured data?

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’ »

How to start a blog

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, the most important thing I have to say to you is: go for it! Start your blog! Just do it! Blogging is a great SEO strategy, it’s a wonderful marketing tool and blogging is lots of fun! A new blog will allow you to make smart and strategic choices. Just take a little time to think about how to set up your blog before you begin, so you’ll have less work later on. Let me share some tips with you on how to start a blog.

Choose your niche

You should always write about what you know. But you should not write about everything you know. Pick a niche. Decide upon a main topic and write posts related to that topic. It’s more likely that your audience will come back and read your other posts if you’re writing about similar topics. People will know what to expect. Starting a mom blog implies that you write about all things concerning your children and family life. Starting a travel blog implies you write about traveling. You can write about something slightly off topic once in a while of course, but try to stick to your niche. An audience of a travel blog doesn’t expect a blog post about gardening. 

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Do your keyword research

Once you’ve chosen your niche, you should do some solid keyword research. Try to find out what people are searching for. What words are they using when they want to read about your niche and your topic? You should really get inside the heads of your potential audience. If you do your keyword research properly, you should end up with a long lists of keywords you would like to be found for. Try to come up with competitive, head keywords as well as with less competitive long-tail keywords.

Read more: ‘How to start your keyword research’ »

Think about site structure

This is the best time to think about site structure. What categories are popular in your niche? What are the most important head keywords you’d like to rank for? You should write a long, kick-ass article about each of these keywords. Those will be your most essential articles, or in other words, your cornerstone content. You should give those articles a prominent place on your site.

After you’ve written those beautiful cornerstone articles, write lots of blog posts on sub topics of that main topic and always link to your cornerstones. That way, you’ll be telling Google exactly what the most important articles on your website are.

Keep reading: ‘What is cornerstone content?’ »

Write that first post

Take some time to do keyword research and to think about site structure. But don’t take too much time. Just write that first post! Put pen to paper and just do it. Your blog starts with the very first post. That post doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be published. Need some help to get started? Check out our 10 tips on how to make your post awesome.

Pictures and videos

Writing blog post is more than writing a nice story; a successful blog has pictures and videos as well. Every post should show at least one image. Taking nice photos yourself is a great way of creating images and making short videos is a really good blogging strategy as well. Especially if you’re blogging about (aspects) of your own life, photos of it are a necessity.

Read on: ‘Images for blogs’ »

Optimize for the search engines

Before publishing your post, optimize it using Yoast SEO (on WordPress of course, but on Magento and TYPO3 now too!). Don’t forget to create an awesome SEO title and a decent snippet. Finetune your text. Make sure your text is both readable as well as SEO-friendly.

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

Promote your blog

Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. That’s why your blog should have a Facebook page. Sharing your posts on Facebook is a good marketing strategy. Don’t forget Instagram and Twitter either!

In addition to the use of social media to promote your blog, we advise you send out a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.

Keep reading: ‘Marketing your blog’ »

Stick with it!

The most important thing to start a blog – besides setting up your new blog – is to write that very first blog post. Once you’ve written that first post, your blog has started. You should keep on writing blog posts to make it successful, so try to determine a frequency to publish new posts. You don’t have to blog every day, once a week or maybe even once in every two weeks would be a nice frequency to start with. Find a frequency you can stick with! Your audience will know what to expect, if your blogging frequency is stable.

Read on: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post’ »

Ask Yoast: Create profiles on online platforms?

Nowadays there are a lot of online platforms where you can create your business profile. The idea is that you can be found on those platforms and that the backlinks to your site will benefit your SEO. But is it really worth investing your time and money in those kind of directories? Get the answer in this Ask Yoast!

Marcial Bollinger emailed us asking:

“There are a lot of possibilities nowadays to add an online profile for your site on all sorts of directories, etc. It might give you a lot of backlinks, but are these worth anything for SEO?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Add an online profile for your business

In the video, we help you decide whether your should invest time in creating profiles on online directories. Do they boost your SEO?

“To be honest, probably not. The only reason to create profiles on sites like that is if those sites actually have traffic. If they have traffic, then having the profile probably has an SEO benefit too. Because, in that case, probably the links are worth something to Google, as they see that that site is a living thing and people really use it as a reference.

So if you can make a profile on one of those sites, by all means do. If you can make a profile on a site that you don’t think anyone would ever get to and you’re just doing it for Google, stop doing it. Stuff like that doesn’t work anymore, so don’t. Focus on sites that people might actually will find you on and if those sites are in your area or in your niche, then use them. If they don’t exist, then focus on something else.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

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

What is on-page SEO?

Every SEO strategy is focused on ranking as high as possible in the search engines. To do this, we all try to design and develop a website that Google’s secret algorithm will love. That’s basically what SEO is about. The factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories which will determine the ranking of your website: on-page factors and off-page factors. Here, I’ll discuss the differences between the two, explain the importance of on-page SEO and go over the most essential on-page SEO factors.

On-page and off-page SEO

On-page factors all have to do with elements of your own website. On-page factors include technical set-up – the quality of your code – textual and visual content and user-friendliness of your site. On the other side there are off-page factors, like links from other websites, social media attention and other marketing activities outside your own website. If you focus on off-page SEO you mostly aim to get more links to your site. The more relevant links you get, the higher your ranking in Google will be. Want to get more links to your site? Read our series about link building.

Importance of on-page SEO

On-page SEO consists of all the elements of SEO you can control best. If you own a website, you can control the technical issues and the quality of your content. We believe on-page issues should all be tackled as they’re in your own hands. If you create an awesome website, it will definitely start ranking. Focusing on on-page SEO will also increase the probability that your off-page SEO strategy will be successful. Link building with a crappy site is a very tough job. Nobody wants to link to articles that are badly written or boring.

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

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Essential on-page SEO factors

In our view, there are three major on-page SEO factors. These three pillars are the ones you should focus on:

Technical excellence

The quality of your code should be high. Check if you’re not unintentionally blocking crawlers from indexing your website (we still see this happening!). WordPress is an SEO-friendly platform and our free Yoast SEO plugin takes care of most remaining technical SEO challenges, without you even noticing it. So if you’re using WordPress and configured Yoast SEO well, you’ll have most technical aspects of your on-page SEO covered.

Want to dive deeper into the technical side of SEO? Read our articles on technical SEO or take the Technical SEO 1 training.

Awesome content

Why do people visit your site? Most likely because it contains information they’re looking for. Therefore you should write excellent content. Search engines like Google read your text. Which site ranks highest is for a large part based on the content of a website. That content should be about the right keywords, informative, and easy to read.

Learn all about writing high-quality content in our Ultimate Guide to SEO copywriting or get our Content SEO eBook.

Flawless UX

The third and final pillar is User eXperience. Users need to easily understand your website. They should be able to find what they want in a heartbeat. They should know where to click and how to navigate through your site. And it should be fast! A beautifully designed website is nice, but you should definitely make it your top priority to create a user-friendly website first!

Read more about usability here. If you want to learn more about combining SEO, UX and conversion we’d advise you to read our eBook ‘UX and Conversion from an holistic point of view

Read more: ‘SEO basics: what does Google do’ »

SEO basics: How to use social media

Social media endeavors should be a part of your SEO strategy. As social media usage increased in popularity, Google and other search engines couldn’t ignore them any longer. This means that your site’s popularity on social media ties in with your SEO more and more. The reason for this is simple: if people talk about you, online or offline, you’re relevant to the topic at hand. In addition to that, you’ll want to know about these conversations. In this post, I’ll give you some fundamental tips on how to use social media.

How to use social media

Below are some tips you can use in order to set up or to improve your social media strategy:

1. Keep your account alive

The most crucial advice in the use of social media is that you need to keep your account ‘alive’. Make sure you post on a regular basis. Sharing your new blog posts is a good start, but also let people know what you’re working on or what interests you. If you go on vacation, schedule posts for the time you are away, or at least let people know when you’ll be back. And, after a while, you could repost older content to draw people to your website with existing content.

2. Write captivating excerpts

When you decide to share your blog post on social media, make sure to select or write a short and appealing excerpt in order to draw people in. You could, for instance, choose the most important sentence or the main point of your post. Or you could simply choose to share the introduction of the blog post, if you feel that is captivating enough. You want this piece of text to get people to click on the link and read the whole post. And do ensure that people can easily navigate to other pages on your website, once they are there.

Our SEO for WordPress eBook guides you through every aspect of Search Engine Optimization »

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3. Diversify

You can share different types of posts on your social media account. As mentioned in point 1, you could share your blog posts, but you could also share short news items, videos or simply some (behind-the-scenes) pictures. These kind of posts can make our brand more fun and personal.

In order to decide which posts do well on social media, you should analyze the number of views, shares and likes. Of course, we’d advise to share types of posts that receive a lot of views and likes more often.

4. Handle comments

If you share your posts on social media, you could also receive comments. Don’t forget to monitor this. You should handle these comments swiftly.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

5. Use awesome illustrations

For some social media (Pinterest and Instagram) it is all about the illustrations. But also on Facebook visual content is really important. They make your post stand out from all of the other posts in someone’s timeline, and can boost clickthrough.

When you use Yoast SEO Premium you can check what your blog post or product page will look like, before sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. See how easy that is!

6. Be part of the community

If you’re active in a certain community or niche, you’ll soon discover other interesting people in that area that your audience follows. Follow them too and interact with them, this could help your and their audiences grow.

7. Add metadata

Smart use of (hash)tags can also help your growth immensely. For instance if you are at an event, include the hashtag for that event in your post, so everyone searching for that event will come across it. There are also hashtags for certain interests or technology. Some people might even retweet everything that is posted in a certain hashtag, which is a great way to boost your post. But don’t go overboard! Nobody likes a post that is filled with all kinds of random hashtags.

Conclusion

Social media is a key aspect of every SEO strategy. Setting up a decent social media strategy can be hard and will ask for a bit of creativity. And, it’ll definitely consume much of your time. But, it’ll be worth it! And if you think about it, social media and blogging are very similar in many aspects.

Keep reading: ‘Social media strategy: where to begin’ »

SEO basics: How to optimize a blog post?

Content writing should be a key element of every SEO strategy. How do you make sure your blog posts have the highest chance to rank well in Google? What are the successive steps you’ll need to take? In this post, I’ll take you back to the very basics of SEO. How do you optimize a blog post?

Find that keyword

The very first step of every content SEO strategy should be keyword research. You should figure out for what search terms you want to be found. Figuring out the right keyword can be quite daunting though. You really have to get into the heads of your audience.

Read more: ‘Why every content SEO strategy should start with keyword research’ »

A word is not a topic, though. Besides a keyword (or keyphrase), you’ll need an angle, a specific story around that keyword. Read our tips on how to come up with ideas for your blog if you would like to know more about that.

Yoast is most famous for the Yoast SEO plugin, of course. Our plugin will really help you in the optimizing process. The first step is to fill out the keyword you want your post to be found for (the focus keyword). After that, the plugin will give you feedback on how to improve the SEO of your blog post. It will, for instance, check your post for these things:

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

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Use that keyword

If you want to rank high for a certain term, you should definitely use that term quite often in your text. That way, Google will know that your text is about that specific keyword. But don’t overdo it. Google doesn’t like over-optimized text at all. A keyword density of 2 % ( in which one in fifty words is your keyword) is great. It’s best to create a text that’s rather lengthly, we recommend a text of at least 300 words. That way, you’ll be able to use your keyword quite a number of times.

Optimize your headings

Check if your focus keyword is in your headings. The title of your post is really important. You should definitely use your keyword there. Try to use your keyword in at least one of your subheadings as well.

How about that snippet?

The snippet is the thing Google shows in the search results. It’s the title of your post and a short description. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your snippet: it shows you a preview of the snippet and allows you to easily edit the content. This is very important, as it’s the first thing your audience will read. So this piece of text will have to convince them to go to your site.

Unfortunately, we’re never sure whether Google will show that specific snippet. However, creating a kick-ass snippet preview should be part of your SEO strategy. Of course, don’t forget to use that focus keyword again!

Keep reading: ‘The snippet preview: what it means and how to use it’ »

Don’t forget: write an awesome post!

Optimizing your post for the search engines is something you should definitely do. But more importantly, you should make sure you write an awesome post. The topic of your post should be original, the message of your text should be appealing to your audience. On top of that, your text should be pleasant and not too difficult to read. Without making concessions to the readability of your post, you should use the tips described to optimize your blog post and make it stand out a little bit more!

Read on: ‘10 steps to an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post’ »