Site structure is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy. After all, the structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. You can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engines, with your site’s structure. So, it’s important to get it right! It also is a very actionable part of your SEO strategy. You can all start improving your site structure today! In this SEO basics post, I’ll explain the importance of site structure for your site’s SEO and I’ll give three quick tips on how to start improving your site’s structure.

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

Site structure training Info

As your site grows, it’ll get cluttered

As you’re writing more and more blog posts, or add more product pages, your site will get cluttered. You need to organize it neatly, to make sure you, your visitor AND Google will be able to find what they’re looking for.

Why is that? Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name is Alice. Alice gets up every morning, sits down at her desk and starts to write a beautiful story. She writes one story every day. Alice types all her stories on this beautiful old-fashioned typewriter. Whenever she’s done writing, she pulls the paper out of the machine and puts her lovely new story on her desk. As you can imagine, her desk will slowly get cluttered with all these sheets of paper. After a year of writing, she’ll have 365 sheets of paper on it. After three years of writing, she’ll have more than a thousand. Alice will not be able to find her favorite story, because of the abundance of stories on her desk.

If you do not structure your stuff neatly, your stories, your blogposts, your product pages will get lost. Your visitors will not be able to find what they are looking for, and, important for your SEO: Google will also get lost.

Why is site structure important for Google?

There are two reasons why site structure is important for Google and, therefore, for your chances to rank in the search engines.

1. Structure is a guide for Google

The way your site is structured will give Google clues about where to find the most important content. Your site’s structure determines whether a search engine can understand what your site is about and what you’re selling.

Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot called Googlebot. And by following those links, Google determines the relationship between the various pages. The structure of your site is a guide to Google and therefore very crucial.

2. Not competing with your content

The second reason why site structure is essential for Google is because, without a decent structure, you’ll be competing with yourself for a high ranking in the search engines. You probably have blogposts or articles on your site that are on the same topic. At Yoast, for example, we write a lot about SEO. We have multiple posts about site structure, each covering a different aspect. But Google won’t know which of these is most important unless we ‘tell’ Google.

Importance should order your content. Think about Alice’s cluttered desk. Alice could clean up by making piles of her sheets of papers. She could order her stories by topic: stories about bumble bees, stories about flowers, stories about fairies. But, if Alice were to make piles of paper, without ordering them, without putting the most beautiful stories on the top of the pile, no one would ever know which story is the most important to her.

If you don’t tell Google which posts are most important, all of your posts will be competing for attention. You’d be competing with your pages for a high ranking in Google. The solution is rather simple: you let Google know which page you consider most important. You tell Google which story you want on top of your pile. To do this, you need a good internal linking structure.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Read more: ‘Why is site structure important?’ »

How to get started with site structure?

What are the things you need to do to improve your site’s structure? What can you do to avoid your site structure becoming an issue?  I’ll give three basic tips on how to quickly improve your site structure.

Remove old content

Lots of shops will sell a different collection of products (clothes; shoes) every season. If you don’t expect to sell the same product again, you should remove the page. However, you may have had some links to the page you want to remove. And you know, links to your page are valuable for your SEO!  You want to make sure you benefit from these links, even though the page does not exist anymore. That’s why you should redirect the URL.

Evaluate your categories

You should ensure that categories are about equally large. Think of Alice and her stories. Alice could categorize her stories by making piles of these categories. Imagine one pile becoming huge, while the others remain much smaller. It would be hard to find a specific story in that big pile, while it would be much easier to search through a small pile. At the same time, that big heap is probably very important, because Alice wrote a lot of stories about that specific topic.

Categories become too large when you write a lot about one specific subject and less about others. At one point, you should divide that one category into two categories. A good rule of thumb for the size of categories is to make sure that no category is more than twice the size of any other category. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a huge category. The pile has become too large to search through.

3. Improve your internal linking structure

You should make sure that you’re linking to your most important articles. A great internal linking structure is crucial. We’ve built Yoast Internal Linking to help you achieve such an internal structure. But you should do some reading and research to get the hang of it. Read Meike’s blogpost about Internal linking for SEO to improve your internal linking structure.

Keep reading: ‘Avoid these site structure mistakes!’ »

Conclusion: get started with improving your site structure

It’s important to remember that site structure is part of a bigger, ongoing process. Your site will grow and therefore, the structure will require maintenance. Improving and maintaining the structure of a site should be a core aspect of every SEO strategy. It’s a very actionable part of SEO; it’s something you can control and improve rather quickly. So, let’s get started!

Read on: ‘Site structure: the Ultimate guide’ »

The post SEO Basics: (The importance of) site structure appeared first on Yoast.

Some SEO questions are awkward. You want to know the answer to them, but you feel pretty stupid for just having the thought about it in your mind. If you ask your next door SEO neighbor, you’re afraid he or she will laugh. You’re embarrassed. You’re afraid to ask that specific question. But still, there is this undying desire to know the answer. You tried Google, asked your Amazon Echo, but there is a deafening silence reminding you that this is indeed a strange question. Let me answer 5 SEO questions you were probably just too afraid to ask.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Can SEO agency X really get me to rank #1?

Yes, SEO agency X can get you to rank #1, to be honest. They can. They will use shady techniques, like adding a gazillion keyword focused pages to your website, and add your website to a blog network for links. Your traffic will rise, your rankings will go up, and if you are lucky, you will obtain that number one spot in Google for a particular keyword.

What they don’t tell you, is that they tricked Google into ranking your website number one. After some time, you will see your traffic drop, slowly or all of a sudden. This is the time Google needed to figure out what was going on with your website. This is the time when Google finds that you(r SEO company) was luring it into liking your website so much. And this is also the time that you lose all your traffic and find your site in the gutter of the internet, after page 2 in Google. Money wasted.

What should I have done?

These kinds of SEO questions all have the same answer. You should have invested in quality content. Write about the things your customers and visitors want to read about. Entertain and inform them via great articles. Build a base of regular visitors, either by writing great content or focusing on that niche product range people like so much. If your website is impressive enough, other sites will start liking you. Your rankings will go up. And by Google’s grace, you’ll reach that top spot in Google the right way. Of course, you can get guidance from any SEO agency that is realistic in this! It’s not a trick; it’s Seriously Effortful Optimization.

Do I have to write a unique product description for all my 10,000 product pages?

I had my share of these type of SEO questions: does every page needs to be unique? I have thousands of pages/products! Actually, yes. If you want to rank with every single page of your website, you need to create unique pages, to prevent duplicate content. You need to optimize every single page in that case. It’ll probably leave you wondering if you have chosen the right approach to optimize your website. You probably did not.

What should I have done?

If your website has this many pages, site structure and taxonomies become very important. I usually use a DIY store as an example. You probably have 100 product pages with screws. How to optimize every single product page!? A screw is a screw, right!? In that case, it will pay off much more to optimize your category page. Make sure that page has sufficient and great content, so that you have a shot at ranking for that more generic keyword.

By optimizing the taxonomy page, and placing that in the right position in your site structure, you help every single product page that fits into that very category. If you optimize your filter options and search options along the way, you are saving you a lot of hassle!

Can I use more than one H1 on a page?

Yes, you can use more than one H1 on a page. If you take the HTML5 guidelines as a rule, every block element could or perhaps should have a semantic structure in headings, starting at H1 and working towards H6 if needed. That means multiple H1’s can indeed be added to a page.

SEO questions: why one H1? One captain on a ship, really.

The question that remains is whether that would be the best SEO practice. If we add an H1 to every single block on a page, which heading would be the most important heading of that page? Does it make sense to make every blog title on your site’s blog archive page an H1? Would a search engine be able to digest it like that? It probably can. But every H1 loses a bit of value with the addition of the next one, in my opinion.

What should I have done?

Establish on what (focus) keyword you want to focus on that page, and create one compelling H1 as the main title of that page. If that is an archive page, use the main keyword and create a title around that. Use H2 for all the different article titles that are listed on that page.

One H1 per page isn’t a strict rule, but for SEO it makes all the sense in the world. If you want to read up on headings, please visit this page: Headings and why you should use them.

Do I still need meta keywords?

C’mon, people. No, there are no stupid SEO questions. Really, there are none. But this one is asked so many times, that by now the question should be in an SEO museum. Please understand that there might be variations, like meta news_keywords, but the meta keywords tag isn’t used by Google anymore for rankings – and hasn’t been for a long time.

What should I have done?

Focus on a great title, add a very nice, inviting meta description and write awesome content. And forget about (putting effort into) these meta keywords.

After installing your SEO plugin, can I lean back and wait for traffic to come in?

Ok, let’s finish off with a question related to our SEO plugin. There are still a lot of people that install Yoast SEO and then forget about SEO altogether. In a land of fairytales, there might be such a tool or app that magically get you to the very top of the wizard’s search engine, where long tail strategies refer to Rapunzel’s hair.

In the real world, there are no magic tricks that help you rank better. You should do everything you can to create an attractive website for both users and search engines. Our SEO plugin provides a convenient, easy way to optimize your website. But it needs you to do the optimizing.

What should I have done?

Install our plugin and follow the steps in our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. We help you configure the plugin, and will show you where the plugin helps you optimize your pages, your content. Monitor your website in Google Analytics and Google Search Console so that you will know a) if your efforts pay off, and b) if anything out-of-the-ordinary happens to your website. If so, rinse and repeat. Go back to the page at hand, use our analysis en see what you can do to improve a specific page.

Any more SEO questions?

Of course, there are more SEO questions that you’d like to ask. We have a packed SEO knowledge base for you to browse, with loads of information about SEO and our plugins. We have an SEO blog that is updated multiple times a week with fresh and updated content. If you want a deep-dive in SEO, feel free to browse our (paid) SEO courses. There is always something to learn!

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

The post 5 SEO questions you were afraid to ask appeared first on Yoast.

Whenever I think of Googlebot, I see a cute, smart Wall-E like robot speeding off on a quest to find and index knowledge in all corners of yet unknown worlds. It’s always slightly disappointing to be reminded that Googlebot is ‘only’ a computer program written by Google that crawls the web and adds pages to its index. Here, I’ll introduce you to the crawler and show you what it does.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Googlebot? Web crawler? Spider? Huh?

All those terms mean the same thing: it’s a bot that crawls the web. Googlebot crawls web pages via links. It finds and reads new and updated content and suggests what should be added to the index. The index, of course, is Google’s brain. This is where all the knowledge resides. Google uses a ton of computers to send their crawlers to every nook and cranny of the web to find these pages and to see what’s on them. Googlebot is Google’s web crawler or robot and other search engines have their own.

How does Googlebot work?

Googlebot uses sitemaps and databases of links discovered during previous crawls to determine where to go next. Whenever the crawler finds new links on a site, it adds them to the list of pages to visit next. If Googlebot finds changes in the links or broken links, it will make a note of that so the index can be updated. The program determines how often it will crawl pages. To make sure Googlebot can correctly index your site, you need to check its crawlability. If your site is available to crawlers they come around often.

Different robots

There are several different robots. For instance, the AdSense and AdsBot check ad quality, while Mobile Apps Android checks Android apps. For us, these are most important ones:

Name User-agent
Googlebot (desktop) Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
Googlebot (mobile) Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/41.0.2272.96 Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
Googlebot Video Googlebot-Video/1.0
Googlebot Images Googlebot-Image/1.0
Googlebot News Googlebot-News

How Googlebot visits your site

To find out how often Googlebot visits your site and what it does there, you can dive into your log files or open the Crawl section of Google Search Console. If you want to do really advanced stuff to optimize the crawl performance of your site, you can use tools like Kibana or the SEO Log File Analyser by Screaming Frog.

Google does not share lists of IP addresses that the various Googlebots use, since these addresses change often. To find out if a real Googlebot visits your site, you can do a reverse IP lookup. Spammer or fakers can easily spoof a user-agent name, but not an IP address. Here’s Google’s example of verifying the validity of a Googlebot.

You can use the robots.txt to determine how Googlebot visits – parts of – your site. Watch out though, if you do this the wrong way, you might stop Googlebot from coming altogether. This will take your site out of the index. There are better ways to prevent your site from being indexed.

Google Search Console

Search Console is one of the most important tools to check the crawlability of your site. There, you can verify how Googlebot sees your site. You’ll also get a list of crawl errors for your to fix. In Search Console, you can also ask Googlebot to recrawl your site. Another way to fix these crawl errors is by connecting Yoast SEO to Search Console. You can import your errors and fix them straight from the backend of your site. Yoast SEO Premium can do even more to make your SEO easier.

Optimize for Googlebot

Getting Googlebot to crawl your site faster is a fairly technical process that boils down to bringing down the technical barriers that prohibit the crawler from accessing your site properly. It is a fairly technical process, but you should make yourself familiar with that. If Google can’t crawl your site perfectly well, it can never make it rank for you. Find those errors and fix them!

Conclusion

Googlebot is the little robot that visits your site. If you’ve made technically sound choices for your site, it’ll come often. If you regularly add fresh content it’ll come around more often. Sometimes, whenever you’ve made large-scale changes to your site, you might have to call that cute little crawler to come at once, so the changes can be reflected in the search results as soon as possible.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: What does Google do?’ »

The post SEO basics: What is Googlebot? appeared first on Yoast.

First things first. Conversion isn’t SEO. Conversion is an end of the customer’s journey on your website. It’s not the end, as that customer could come back and start a new part of the journey. Conversion can be improved by good SEO, that much is true if you:

By making sure your visitor is served to his or her best needs, you will provide a warm welcome. You will establish a kind of trust, which will make it easier for that visitor to convert.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

But what is conversion?

The question remains: what is conversion? Conversion is often associated with a sale, but in online marketing, defining conversion just by that is too narrow-minded. Conversion, the way we define it, happens every time a visitor completes a desired action on your website. That could be a click-through to the next page, if that is your main goal on a certain page. It could be the subscription to a newsletter. And it could be a visitor buying your product. In short: conversion happens when someone completes the action you want them to complete.

And what is conversion rate?

If 100 persons visit your page, and 10 of them subscribe to your newsletter, your conversion rate is 10%. The conversion rate is also a number you’ll find in Google Analytics, for instance:

Conversion rate is used to monitor the conversion on a web page, depending on the thing you want to monitor. So, for instance, if you hire our conversion friends at AG Consult, they will (among other things) perform A/B tests on your website and tell you which variant has the highest conversion rate (test winner). You’d better implement that test winner asap, as you will understand :)

How about CRO?

You might even have heard of something called CRO when talking or reading about conversion. CRO is Conversion Rate Optimization. This is the process of optimizing the number of conversions compared to the number of visitors. There are a lot of ways to do this, but again, we’d rather refer you to the conversion experts instead of sharing our basic CRO knowledge. There is just so much to it.

CRO versus SEO

They clash. CRO and SEO clash sometimes. In SEO, we will always tell you to keep the visitor in mind. If you serve the visitor the best way you can, you are optimizing for a brand, for brand loyalty, for recognition in Google, for more and quality traffic. And although the next step might indeed be converting that visitor, there’s no need to shove your products down their throat, really. There is a fine line between serving the visitor and annoying him.

CRO at Yoast

You might think that we, at Yoast, are pretty focused on optimizing that conversion to the max. You see our banners in the plugin, on our website, and indeed, conversion is very important for us. More newsletter subscriptions lead to a larger reach, which leads to more attention for our products, which leads to more reviews, more downloads, more sales. And with the money made, we develop the free plugin and sponsor for instance WordCamps.

Conversion, in any possible way, helps to create a sustainable business growth. But trust me, if we wouldn’t keep that SEO, our core business, and our mission (SEO for everyone) in mind, our articles could have six buy buttons. And we could annoy you with a surplus of exit-intent popups and so on. It would upset you, increase bounce rate, trigger you to never come back, and ruin the SEO you so carefully worked on.

So, what is conversion again?

A successful conversion is every instance when a visitor completes a desired action on your website. And still feels good about your brand, your website, and your products, and is likely to come back to your site!

Read more: ‘eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide’ »

The post SEO Basics: What is conversion? appeared first on Yoast.

HTTPS secures the connection to the website you are visiting. I’m sure you have seen this in action; look at the address bar in the browser and find the lock icon on the left-hand side. Is the lock closed? Then the connection is secure. Is it open or is there another type of icon or message? Then it’s not secure and vulnerable to attack. Using a site over a non-secure connection means hackers/criminals could intercept the data you send to the site, like your password and email address. Here, I’ll explain what HTTPS is and why it plays a role in SEO.

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

HTTP vs HTTPS

When you type in a URL in the search bar, your browser asks the site for its IP address – for instance 123.456.7.89. This number is the actual address that a site gets online. The browser connects to this number in the hopes this is the correct site. This is all done in plain sight and there is no encryption to be seen, so everyone can intercept this traffic. So when you want to log in to a site that you connect to via an HTTP connection, the data you enter – username and password – is sent in plain text. Trust me, that’s really bad. Think about what would happen if you’d connect to your bank this way.

HTTPS secures this process. HTTPS encrypts the connection between the browser and the site, therefore making sure that no one can intercept the data sent between those two. Every site that wants to secure itself needs a so-called SSL certificate.  The browser checks the certificate of the site and verifies its legitimacy with the company that issued it. If you want to see who issued the certificate, please click on the lock icon. By using HTTPS, sites not only secure your login procedure and personal data but also what you do on a site and which sites you visit.

Besides securing the web, HTTPS is necessary for sites that want to upgrade to a new, safer and much faster internet protocol called HTTP/2. HTTP/2 includes different new technologies that make sites a lot faster to load.

yoast ssl certificate

Value of HTTPS for the user

Everyone has the right to privacy on the web. We are doing so many mission-critical things on the web these days that we can use any kind of security we can get. An ever-increasing number of websites is making the move to HTTPS. In the screenshot below, you can see that at the moment, 61% of the sites that Firefox loads are being sent over HTTPS (stats by Let’s Encrypt). HTTPS is a must for any type of site, even if you own the bakery around the corner and don’t send or request sensitive data via your website.

lets encrypt https usage

Value of HTTPS for SEO

In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would become a ranking signal. Today, your rankings will hardly change when you activate HTTPS. But it’s not just about rankings as much as it is about user experience and gaining trust with your future customers. It’s inevitable that we are moving to an all-HTTPS web. It is, therefore, incredibly important that your site makes the switch to HTTPS in the coming year.

Several browsers now show ‘not secure’ messages when your site doesn’t have an HTTPS connection or when you try to send data via HTTP on your HTTPS site. Don’t forget, it’s easy to scare off visitors! Wouldn’t you switch over to the site of a competitor when you’d see something like the ‘not secure’ message in the screenshot below?

https not secure message

Make the switch to HTTPS

A few years ago, switching to HTTPS was a major undertaking. Some big sites waited years to do it because it came with several challenges, like speed issues and the cost/benefit issue. These days, while still not easy, it’s manageable. If you’re planning to make the switch to HTTPS, be sure to make a checklist so you don’t forget anything during the process.

Joost shared some advice in a recent Ask Yoast video on moving to HTTPS:

Forcing HTTPS is something that you need to test really well. There are all sorts of things in your site that probably aren’t HTTPS ready that you should know of upfront. I know it was a lot of hard work to get yoast.com to HTTPS and we don’t even have ads. Especially ad services can be really tough to get working on HTTPS.

The Let’s Encrypt project issues free certificates to anyone wanting to secure their site. Several web hosts even offer free Let’s Encrypt services that make the installation of a certificate as easy as pie. That is, however, only one piece of the puzzle. On Google’s Secure your site with HTTPS site you can find more information on best practices. We’ve written a guide on moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS. If this stuff scares you it is best to hire an expert!

Read more: ‘Moving your website to HTTPS: tips & tricks’ »

The post SEO basics: What is HTTPS? appeared first on Yoast.

If you’re an SEO-newbie you’ll probably hear lots of new and complicated terms. In our SEO basics-series, we’ll explain all these terms and concepts to you. In this post, I’ll go into user signals. What exactly are user signals? And what do user signals have to do with SEO? What do you need to know about them?

What are user signals?

User signals are behavioral patterns of users which Google uses to establish the rankings of your website in the search results. For instance: users click on a result in the search engines and after that, they immediately bounce back to Google. This is a signal that the website does not fit the search query of the user. Google uses this type of information to estimate what results are useful to show to people searching with a specific search query.

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

Basic SEO training Info

The most important user signals

The most important user signals are the bounce rate and the click-through rate (CTR). These are important for your SEO, as Google takes these seriously. But besides that, these user signals are also important for your user experience. Let’s look at these two user signals in more detail.

Bounce rate

Your bounce rate is determined by the amount of people that click on the link to your website in the search engine result pages (SERPs) and consequently click back again to Google. A high bounce rate indicates that people did not find what they were looking for on your website.

It’s hard to pin down at what point a bounce rate is high. First of all, it depends on how you measure the bounce rate. Google Analytics indicates a bounce when a user does not click to other pages and only stays on one page on your site. But, is it still bouncing if someone stays on one page for minutes to read a page? Other analytics packages have different definitions of a bounce rate. Secondly, whether or not a bounce rate is high also depends on the type of website you have. If you have a blog, you’ll probably have a high bounce rate, as people often read only one post and go back to Google to find other blogposts on the same subject. If you sell a specific type of product, say, ballet shoes, your bounce rate is probably much lower.

Although bounce rate is hard to measure you should definitely monitor the trend of your bounce rate and the differences in bounce rate between your pages. If a specific page has a very high bounce rate, you should try to figure out what’s the cause. You could add links to other useful pages or call to actions to keep people on your site.

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

Click Through Rate (CTR)

The click through rate (CTR) of a page is determined by the number of people that click on your result in the SERPs. If your snippet is very appealing to a user, or appears in a higher position, people are more inclined to click on it. The more people click on your result (and not on the other snippets in the SERPs), the more Google will think your result does indeed fit the search query of the user best. A high CTR will therefore result in higher rankings, as Google wants to show the best result first.

For SEO purposes, you should definitely monitor the click through rates of different pages. You should be able to see the rates of specific pages on your website in Google Search Console. Take a look at pages that have a relatively low CTR. Maybe the meta description of that page is not written that well. Making your snippets more appealing is a great way of generating more clicks from Google.

Other user signals

Other examples of user signals are the time spent on a website or the percentage of users that return to your website. You can monitor those with tools like Google Analytics as well.

Conclusion

Google’s mission is to organize the worlds’ information and make it universally accessible and useful. Therefore, Google wants to show a user the best result possible, the result that best fits their search query. It’s totally understandable that Google takes user behavior into account in their assessment of which result to rank highest. Every SEO strategy focusing on making the best website possible, will make a website more usable and user-friendly. Looking at user signals is a good way to start optimizing your website for a better user experience and better rankings. It’s a win-win SEO strategy!

Keep reading: ‘SEO basics: What are ranking signals?’ »

The post SEO basics: what are user signals? appeared first on Yoast.

A few weeks ago, I gave a lightning talk at WordCamp Nijmegen (my hometown in the Netherlands) on how to avoid common SEO mistakes. And this seemed a great topic to write a post about as well, so here it is! I’ll describe the most pressing SEO problems I find on sites I work on as an SEO consultant. Of course, I’ll also explain how to avoid them!

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

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

It’s important to start with Yoast’s vision on SEO, namely holistic SEO. This means that we don’t just focus on the technical aspects of your site, but also see content and User eXperience (UX) as an important part of SEO. Therefore, the tips outlined in the article below will not only cover the strict definition of SEO, but also include a wide range of other aspects that site owners should pay attention to as well.

#1: Forgetting that faster is better

The first thing I’d like to touch on is site speed. The faster your site, the more Google will favor it. There’s a very useful tool from Google itself to check your site speed: Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool gives you an overview of what aspects need improvement to boost the speed of a particular page.

One of the recommendations I frequently give as an SEO consultant is to optimize your images. A lot of websites have images that are relatively large, which take a lot of time to load. Resizing your images can speed up the loading time. If you have a WordPress site, this can easily be done by installing a plugin that does that for you.

Read more: ‘Image SEO’ »

Another tip that I frequently give people is to enable browser caching and gzip compression. Both of them will speed up your entire site. The first makes your site faster to load for returning visitors and the latter compresses static files, which makes them faster to load into your browser.

In case of a WordPress install, I also recommend taking a good look at the plugins that are activated. Are you actually using all of them? Perhaps some of them can be replaced by another plugin that combines those functions? The best advice I can give you on this topic is that less is more. The fewer plugins that are activated, the faster your WordPress installment can be loaded.

#2: Trying to rank for the wrong keywords

If you want to rank in Google you have to make sure that you’re using the right keywords for every page. One of the biggest mistakes I frequently encounter is that site owners are optimizing for too generic keywords. If you are a relatively small business that wants to rank for ‘rental car’, you’re aiming too high. You should try to come up with something more specific than that. Otherwise, you’re competing with all the car rental companies all over the world, which is impossible to do! So at least make sure you add the area in which your company is located to the keyword. This will make the keyword more long tail, as we call it.

The longer and more specific the keywords are, the higher your chances of ranking for this keyword. Of course, this also means that the search volume for this keyword decreases, but you can compensate for this by optimizing a lot of pages on your site for different long tail keywords. Your site will eventually gain more traffic for all of these keywords combined, than it ever would if you optimized for one main keyword, for which you could never rank page 1 in Google.

#3:  Failing to invite people to visit your site

Metadata is what appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) when a website comes up for certain queries. It includes the title of the page and its meta description. The page title is still one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so you have to make sure it’s optimized correctly for every page. This means adding the relevant keyword to each particular page and making sure that your page title isn’t too long. If your page title is too long (currently 400 to 600 pixels), it will get cut off in Google. You don’t want potential visitors to be unable to read the full title in the SERPs.

The meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does play an important part in optimizing your Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR gives some insight into how likely potential visitors are to actually click on your site in the SERPs. If you optimize your meta descriptions with clear and attractive extracts on what potential visitors can find on your site, it becomes easier for them to see if the information they’re looking for is on that page. The more likely potential visitors are to think your site will provide an answer to their search query, the more traffic a page will gain.

#4: Neglecting to write awesome content

A lot is already written on this blog about writing awesome content, but I still frequently come across sites that do a poor job in writing content. It’s important to make sure every page of your site has decent content, at least 300 words. You can’t expect Google to see you as an expert on a certain topic when you have only written two sentences about it. This indicates to Google that your page probably isn’t the best result to match the search query.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to think of Google as your audience. You write for your visitors and not for Google. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and provide the best answers possible. Therefore, writing quality content for your audience is also something that will immediately lead to Google’s approval.

Writing quality content means writing original content. This is also important to avoid duplicate content with other sites. And it means that sites have to stop stuffing keywords into their texts. Your text has to be easy to read for your visitor. Obviously, your visitor doesn’t benefit from a keyword stuffed text, because this decreases the readability.

#5: No call to action for your visitors

Once visitors are on your site, an important goal is to keep them on your site. You don’t want your visitors immediately bouncing back to Google once they have read something on your site. This is why you need to encourage visitors to click through your site. The best way to do this is to create a call-to-action (CTA), which usually is a button that offers an action to your visitor. This can be, for instance, a ‘buy’ button on a product page, or a ‘sign up’ button for the newsletters.

Make sure that every page has one call-to-action, so the goal of the page is clear. If you add multiple buttons, you lose the focus of the page and your visitors won’t get where you want them to go. So think about what the right goal is for every page. Also, make sure that the CTA stands out from your design, so it’s clearly visible and cannot be missed. If the button blends into the design of your page too much, it will attract fewer clicks than when it stands out. So don’t be afraid to use a distinct color!

Keep reading: ‘Calling to the next action’ »

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

Basic SEO training Info

#6: Not thinking ahead: The future is mobile

Since Google has announced that next year they will switch to mobile indexing first, you should be busy preparing your site for this change. ‘Mobile indexing first’ means that Google will look at the mobile version of your site to decide how high you should rank. So if the desktop version of your site is set up brilliantly, but your mobile site isn’t responsive at all, you have a lot of work to do if you don’t want to suffer a rank drop over next year.

A great way to test if your site is at least mobile friendly is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test. This gives you an indication if Google thinks your site is fit for displaying on mobile devices. But don’t stop after checking this. The best advice I can give you is to visit your site on your mobile phone. Browse your own site for a while and try to click on every button, image and link to see what happens. Is everything working as expected? Can you actually purchase something on your site while using your mobile phone? Are all pages displayed correctly? You will see that most sites have some work to do this fall.

Read on: ‘Mobile SEO: the Ultimate Guide’ »

In short

As SEO consultant I’ve seen many sites making the same mistakes. Learn from the ones I listed in this post: focus on site speed, write great content and optimize for the right keywords. If you make sure people want to visit your site, have great calls-to-action and prepare for mobile, you’re already on your way to a well-optimized website, the holistic way!

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

The post How to avoid common SEO mistakes appeared first on Yoast.

It’s a common misconception that the internet is the ultimate learning environment. Yes, you can find everything you need, for free, but the information you end up with is not always trustworthy. It’s scattered, often outdated and sometimes contradictory. So if you want to learn all about a particular subject, you might be better off signing up for an online course. Yoast offers all kinds of SEO courses in its Academy, with great success. Marieke, who is responsible for most of the courses, explains how Yoast Academy came about.

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

Basic SEO training Info

All SEO courses in the Yoast Academy are on sale. Get your favorite course and save 11%! »

“We first had the idea for the Academy when Yoast reached its fifth birthday. We had already successfully published an ebook called ‘Optimizing your WordPress site’  – now called SEO for WordPress – and a second one was in the works. But we wanted to combine our knowledge in a new way, something more engaging and hands-on because not everyone wants to read a book or a hundred blog posts to get to the bottom of a subject. That’s when our courses were born,” Marieke explains.

DIY SEO

Yoast Academy is the go-to place if you want to teach yourself SEO. So far, we’ve written eBooks on SEO for WordPress, UX & conversion, content SEO, and shop SEO. On top of that, you can find a selection of in-depth courses on site structure, SEO copywriting, Yoast SEO for WordPress, basic SEO and technical SEO. The latest course added to the academy is Structured data and there are several currently in development, and this is only the beginning.

According to Marieke, the Academy is an excellent addition to Yoast’s line of products: “Yoast Academy fits perfectly within our company mission. At Yoast, we want to make it possible for everyone to build a findable website and by sharing our knowledge we can help people to do that. It’s also one of the reasons we make our content available in different formats. Besides, we are great proponents of open source and give away a good deal of what we know for free. A lot of what we teach is freely available on our site, but also expanded and republished in the form of a course or an eBook.”

Efficient, complete and of great quality

One of the first things people will say when given the option to pay for an eBook or course on SEO or whatever other subject, is that you can find everything you want online, for free. Marieke: “Sure, that’s true. If you have enough time and perseverance, you can indeed find everything you want. But we’ve found that a course package is much more efficient, to the point and complete. If you just read posts on yoast.com, the information is fairly focused. But if you surf the web looking for answers, you’ll quickly get outdated and sometimes contradictory advice. Our courses are exhaustive, up to date and well-thought-out. They offer a great mix of practice and theory. Also, the quizzes let you test your new-found knowledge and make sure it sticks.”

The SEO courses in the Yoast Academy have been well-received. Matt LeClear, one of the first participants in the Structured data training, found that Google rewarded his site with rich snippets within a day after applying the knowledge he gathered from the training:

“As a result of what I learned from the Structured data training, my agency is now running Schema audits on our clients’ sites. We’re finding big time opportunities to increase their traffic levels. Those are opportunities I would have missed without Yoast Structured Data Training. If you run an agency yourself, I recommend you take the course. Period.”

Developing material

A course that takes several hours to complete is a different animal compared to a blog post or even an eBook. A good course is well-structured, in-depth and engaging. It has to be an enjoyable experience, and it shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. This is quite a challenge, acknowledges Marieke: “It’s not hard to come up with subjects and material, but it’s the structure and activities that make it a challenging product to build.”

Marieke draws upon past experience to make sure the courses are top-notch: “In the past, I developed a lot of educational material while working at a university. I created several courses and studied different theories on how to produce quality educational material. At Yoast, Joost and I create every course. It’s a complicated and tough process. Jesse, our Academy lead, helps us find the perfect subjects, structure, tone and supporting materials. That way, we know for certain that the course achieves what we set out to do.”

“That’s not to say we think our courses are perfect. They aren’t and probably never will be. But, we are working on them and using customer feedback to improve them. Jesse has lots of experience developing new courses. Plus, he’s an excellent English teacher. Jesse will dive deeper into the theory behind our courses. He’ll make sure that the foundations of our courses are solid and will improve where necessary,” Marieke says.

Keeping things on track

In general, if there is one thing almost all online courses have to cope with, it’s the high drop-off rate. It’s something Marieke noticed as well: “Yeah, it’s hard to keep students on track in online courses. It’s always disappointing to see that a certain percentage of customers never finish the course.”

The missing link could well be the human touch, says Marieke: “I think it would help if we could give our courses a more personal feeling. Take our SEO copywriting course for example. During the course, our students need to send in two assignments. These assignments are hand-checked by our SEO experts, and students get a tailored reply with valuable feedback. This works great; students love to hear from us. Although expensive to produce, this is something we might expand in the future. Another thing I’m contemplating is an SEO copywriting course with a personal coach for one-on-one support. Another helpful tool to enhance the personal aspect of our Academy would be a place for Yoast Academy students to get together, like a private Facebook group so that people can help each other.”

Want rich snippets for your site? Try our Structured data training »

Structured data training Info

Much more to come

Yoast Academy is growing fast; it is the fastest-growing product group in Yoast’s portfolio. Marieke and her team are making progress with new courses and improving and updating current courses. But, it doesn’t stop there, says Marieke: “The current courses touch on a wide range of SEO-related subjects. In the future, we will expand our offerings, but we’re also thinking about a different model. If possible, I’d want to work with a more modular approach. There has to be a way to tailor a course to the specific requirements of a student. Not everyone starts at the same level and with the same knowledge and I’d like a system that adapts where you can pick and choose from suggested subjects.”

Keep an eye on Yoast Academy! Our most recent course on structured data was a big success and we’re actively working on the next one: multi-lingual SEO. Why don’t you try one and see what all the fuss is about!

Read more: ‘Learning didactics Yoast Academy’ »

The post Yoast Academy: Teach yourself SEO appeared first on Yoast.

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

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

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

SEO copywriting trainingBuy SEO copywriting training Info

Content

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

Links

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

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

UX

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

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

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

Mobile

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

Google’s mission

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

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

Holistic SEO

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

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

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

The post SEO basics: what are ranking signals? appeared first on Yoast.

How do you explain SEO to people who don’t know the first thing about it? What is SEO really about? Before anyone accuses me of discriminating against the elderly, the title of this post is only a figure of speech. Joost’s 90-year old grandmother knows exactly what SEO is, while some of our 30-something friends have a hard time grasping the concept of SEO. So, lots of people do not understand what SEO is really about. How can you explain it to them? Here, I’ll tell show you how to explain SEO to all of your friends – and to your grandparents – in four simple steps.

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

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy Yoast SEO Premium plugin Info

1. Explain the influence of search engines

I always start my anecdotes about what SEO is exactly with pointing out the importance, or the monopoly, of the search engines. For most people, the search engine is pretty much Google. I point out how much people use Google and for what purposes. With so many people using Google, every website wants a good position in Google. The more people find a website, the more they’ll read articles and buy products on that specific website. Explaining the importance of the search engine is a really simple thing to do. Most people – even grandparents – know about Google, right?

2. Explain what SEO stands for

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. That basically means, optimizing a website for the search engines – Google – in such a way it’ll appear in a high position in said search engine. That’s usually the second step I take in explaining SEO to my friends and relatives. The tactics SEO uses in order to optimize for the search engines differ over time and between professionals. But every SEO strategy is always aimed at aspiring a high ranking in Google.

If people understand the importance of search engines, they’ll now know why SEO is important. They’ll be now wondering how to achieve such a high position in Google. The hard part is yet to come!

3. Explain Google and Google’s mission

The third step in explaining SEO to your grandparents is to tell them about Google’s mission. In order to understand HOW you can achieve a high position in Google, you should know a bit more about Google and Google’s mission. Google’s mission is:

“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google wants to serve the client a result that fits his question. So, SEO tactics should be focused on making a website in such a way, that the customer will quickly find what he or she is looking for. The best SEO tactic is always to be the best search result.

What does Google do?

Google has an incredibly large database. All the content of all the sites in the world is in there. Google reads texts. By these texts, it decides what a particular site is about. So the content of a website is of particular importance. But, other parts are important too. Google likes websites that are fast and it likes websites that are linked to by many other sites. There are lots of factors that decide which websites are shown in high positions in Google and which websites are shown in a low position. But, they all boil down to the same thing: Google wants to serve the client the BEST possible result. SEO tactics should, therefore, be aimed at being that best result.

4. Give examples of SEO tactics

In the final step of explaining SEO, I usually sum up all the aspects you’ll need optimize and I’ll start with content as content is my thing. SEO means writing awesome content, content that people want to read, content that people like to read. Above that, your website should be fast and it should be user-friendly. People should be able to navigate a site easily, they should instantly know where to click. SEO also has to do with security, making sure your website won’t be hacked. Google does not like hacked websites. There are several on-page SEO tactics you can use to improve your site.

If you notice you’re explaining SEO to someone who responds really enthusiastically, you could tell them a bit about technical SEO. I usually skip that part. If you want a more entertaining touch to your story, you could tell them about buying links and Google penalties. That’s exciting stuff, but not something to use in your SEO strategy.

Conclusion

Explaining SEO to someone who’s pretty much clueless about the subject can be quite hard. SEO is something that changes over time, and that’s a different thing to different people. Even among SEO specialist, opinions on what is good SEO differ.

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

The post Explaining SEO to your grandparents appeared first on Yoast.