What are sponsored, nofollow and ugc links, and why use them?

Links are an important part of SEO. Without links, Google (or other search engines) may not discover your pages, or might not think that they’re important. Sometimes, though, you might want Google not to follow a link. Or you might want to tell them a particular is sponsored, or added to your page by a user. Why’s that? And how do you implement this on your website? Learn all about sponsored, nofollow and ugc links here!

Links and SEO

When you link to another website, search engines may count that as a ‘vote’ for the page you’re linking to. Pages which have many such ‘votes’, from authoritative and trusted websites, may rank higher in the search results as a result (as they, in turn, become more authoritative and trustworthy). That makes links a kind of currency.

That’s why a good SEO strategy should always consider how the types of content, marketing and PR that you do will encourage other websites to link to you. If you’re not already thinking about how your site can earn links from others, our guide to link building tips and tactics is a good place to get inspiration on where to start.

Link building

In the past, but still even today, people try to game the system by buying links. Obviously, that’s not the way to go; Google’s penguins might come after you! That’s why we recommend holistic link building, which boils down to creating great resources for your audience and reaching out to get the word out, eventually leading to more links.

But, what happens if you want to link to a page, without voting for it? And, what stops people from finding ways to cheat the system, such as posting links to their site on your website; on comment forms, forums, or social media profiles?

In these cases, we need to use a special type of link, to tell search engines that it shouldn’t be trusted.

The nofollow attribute

In the early days of SEO, many unscrupulous marketers realised that they could easily get hundreds of links to their pages by leaving spam comments on other blogs, by buying links from webmasters, or from placing links on any site which allowed user-submitted content.

To combat this, in 2005 Google introduced a way to mark a link as untrusted; specifically, a way of saying “don’t follow this link”. By adding a nofollow attribute to your links, they’d no longer count as votes. It also became Google’s policy that any link which is paid for (typically an advert, paid placement, or similar) should use a nofollow attribute to indicate that it shouldn’t affect their ranking calculations.

That’s because paid links are the same as a ‘vote’ for a page. For instance, if someone pays you to put an ad on your website, you might send some visitors to the advertised page or product. Since it’s not a natural endorsement, link value shouldn’t pass on to this particular page; search engines shouldn’t rank it higher because you’ve received some kind of compensation for that link.

This also made it possible to link to a page which you don’t endorse, but you still want to use it as an example in your copy (e.g., “I tried this product, but it was horrible”).

Today, almost all comment systems and social media platforms automatically add a nofollow attribute to user-submitted content.

What does that look like?

Let’s take a closer look at a link. In HTML, a plain link looks like this: <a href="https://www.example.com">example link</a>. You probably use these types of links a lot throughout your content. You use them to point readers to interesting, related content on your own site or someone else’s website.

If you want to indicate that you don’t trust the site you’re linking to, or that it’s a paid placement, including the nofollow attribute would look like this: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">example link</a>.

Internal links

So far, we’ve only considered whether external links should be nofollow’d. In some cases, it might also make sense to mark an internal link with a nofollow attribute. In Yoast SEO, we automatically add a nofollow attribute to internal links which point to your login or registration pages. This prevents Google from wasting resources crawling and evaluating those pages.

Nofollow doesn’t always mean “don’t follow”

It’s important to understand that most search engines treat nofollow as a ‘hint’, and might follow them whilst still ‘devaluing’ them. An announcement from Google in September 2019 clarified this:

Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe the content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.

Danny Sullivan, Google

What are sponsored and ugc links?

In September 2019, Google announced two new types of link attribute. It’s now possible to mark links as sponsored or ugc (short for ‘user-generated content), as well as nofollow. They explained that:

  • The sponsored attribute should be used to identify links which are specifically the result of paid placement; e.g., sponsored placements, advertorials, paid links, and similar.
  • The ugc attribute should be used to identify links which are created by users (e.g., author links in a comment form), which therefore aren’t necessarily trusted or endorsed by the page’s author.

In both cases, these work similarly to the original nofollow attribute – they tell Google note to count the link as a ‘vote’. We don’t know precisely how Google uses this data internally, but they’ve hinted that it’ll help them understand more about the link. That might improve how they count ‘votes’ and evaluate pages.

What does that look like?

That means that we have four different types of HTML markup for links:

  • A normal link, with no rel attribute
  • A nofollow link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow">example link</a>
  • A sponsored link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="sponsored">example link</a>
  • A user-generated content link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="ugc">example link/a>

Combining attributes

Whilst each of these attributes describe different types of links, it’s possible to combine various rel attributes in one link. For instance, a sponsored and nofollow attribute can exist in one link: <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow sponsored">example link</a>.

This is useful, because not all search engines support the two new rel attributes, so it’s best practice to use the nofollow attribute along with the sponsored and ugc attribute.

So, now you know what these links and rel attributes look like. But why and when should you use them?

When should you use which attribute?

The sponsored attribute

An advertisement or link you get paid for or in any other way should use the sponsored attribute. The reasoning behind this is that Google sees links to a page as an endorsement; you link to an article because it’s a valuable resource you’d like to point your users to. When you get paid to place a reference to another website your motivation is different. It might be something you wouldn’t link to without compensation. With the sponsored attribute Google can differentiate these “unnatural links” from normal links.

As other search engines won’t recognise this sponsored attribute (yet), we do recommend to add the nofollow attribute to this type of link as well.

The UGC attribute

You should use the ugc attribute whenever users of your website are able to create content or links on it; e.g., in the comment section on your site. If you’re on WordPress, there’s no need to worry about this attribute; WordPress automatically adds a ugc attribute, as well as a nofollow attribute – a specific request from our team – to the links in the comment section on your site.

The nofollow attribute

As not all search engines support the sponsored or ugc attribute (yet) you should still add the nofollow attribute to both these type of links as well.

Creating sponsored or nofollow links in WordPress

While this might sound a bit complicated when you’re not an HTML native, qualifying links is simple with the WordPress block editor and Yoast SEO. Since Yoast SEO 14.4 we’ve added an option to easily add a sponsored or nofollow attribute to a link in your content.

If you want to nofollow a link or qualify it as sponsored (and nofollow at the same time), click on the link icon, paste your link and you’ll see these options:

Adjust a link setting in Yoast SEO: add nofollow or sponsored to you link with a slider

Select the option of your choice by moving the slider and you’re done!

Rather watch a video? Check this out:

You’ll find more about this on our help page on link settings. Good luck!

Read more: Do outbound links matter for SEO? »

The post What are sponsored, nofollow and ugc links, and why use them? appeared first on Yoast.

Complete beginner’s guide to SEO

In this guide, we will list our best SEO basics categorised by subjects regarding SEO.

Table of contents

Before you’re going to start building a website, we would advise you to draft up your SEO strategy first. A good SEO strategy touches quite some topics that you would need to think about before you can start building. But in reality, we see lots of site owners start looking for SEO once their website is already up and running. Luckily it’s never too late to join the party, and this complete beginner’s guide to SEO is here to get you up and running.

There’s a whole lot that you, as the owner of a website, could and actually should do to attract visitors to your site. One of these things is optimizing your website for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yandex. This is Search Engine Optimization. Because we have already written so much great content about the basics of SEO, the time has come to unite the best knowledge we have to offer in one beginner’s guide to SEO.

SEO and search in general

If you don’t want to spend money on advertising in search engines but do want to increase traffic to your website, then by now, you should realise SEO is the way to go. In the articles listed below, we have written everything you need to know about SEO and Search in general. So you will find out what Google does, what SEO is, how it affects the search result pages and our beliefs on practising good SEO.

Yoast SEO: the ultimate SEO plugin for WordPress

When you’ve come up with a holistic SEO strategy, you’re going to need the tools on your website that can help you achieve your goals. This is where Yoast SEO comes into play. We offer both free and premium solutions for you to work with. That’s why we’d like to explain what our plugin can do but also what you should do yourself.

User eXperience (UX)

User experience is an essential part of the puzzle. Just when you thought your website was finished, we tell you to have a good look at it again. But then take into account all the posts listed below. Most importantly, we advise you on what UX is and why it influences SEO. Without prior knowledge of UX, don’t you agree you would instead visit a website that loads quickly, is easy to navigate and looks trustworthy instead of one that takes ages to load and where you can’t find the menu?

Site structure

When creating a new website, site structure is one of those elements that you should start thinking about early on in the process. Although in a CMS like WordPress, you can easily make changes afterward; it’s good to define a good site structure at once. In the following articles listing in this beginner’s guide to SEO, we will guide you through the most important topics on the subject.

Copywriting

Do you need more help to take your SEO copywriting to the next level? In our SEO copywriting training, which is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription, we’ll teach you how to write copy that ranks!

Pro tip: Fine-tuning the readability of your copy is more important than (over-)optimising it for Google. You are writing content for your audience, not for Google.

Content

Why do people visit your website? Because of your excellent content, of course! Through the next posts, you will learn all about writing and optimizing your content. But first things first, before you start writing, you should do some keyword research. Find out what your audience is searching for online and adapt your keyword strategy to your new-found knowledge. Only now, you can focus on what your audience wants to read and write content that answers all of their questions.

Link building

Google uses links to find your website and its content. If you haven’t got links, it can be hard to get your site noticed by robots and your site might not get indexed as quickly. If your website is already indexed, you can link to your new content from a page that has already been indexed. This is what we call internal linking. If another website links to your website or the other way around, that is what we call external linking. Read all about it in the next posts and put this knowledge to use.

Mobile

Google announced that by September 2020, it would make mobile-first indexing the default. Google will do this because just more people use the web on their mobile devices than on any other device. Your website must be responsive, meaning it displays correctly on mobile phones, tablets, and other handheld devices. In the following blog posts, we will tell you what you can do to optimize your website for mobile use.

Technical SEO

While the Yoast SEO plugin handles a lot of the technical SEO details for you, these articles are definitely worth your while. If you don’t know whether your website lives up to the standards it should, as we describe in the linked articles below, you should contact your developer or website host to have your questions answered. If you’re wondering how to get your website to be one of those unique results on the search engine results page (SERP), the posts on structured data and rich snippets are a must-read!

Analytics

By the time you are reading this part of the beginner’s guide to SEO, you probably already know what Google Analytics is. If not, no problem, we’ve got you covered. If you know the basics, we will elaborate on some practical information about using Google Analytics. Next to Analytics, there is Search Console. Everyone maintaining a website should be using Google Search Console. It gives a lot of insight into how your website performs and what you do to improve its performance.

If you want to learn more about using social media and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-Around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it’ll help you put these skills into practice!

Social

Did you know your presence on social media also affects your SEO? Therefore our CEO Marieke van de Rakt wrote an excellent post on how to use social media. Find out how and why it could benefit your SEO strategy.

Open Source

Collaboratively working on software while it’s source code is open for all to see, and improve! At Yoast, we just love open source. WordPress is open source and even our plugins our open source. We actively encourage people to help us improve our plugins. In return, we devote 5% of our developers’ hours to working on the WordPress core.

Ready to become a pro after reading this beginner’s guide to SEO?

If you’re reading this and read every article listed in this beginner’s guide to SEO, you may call yourself a newbie no more. Now you’ve come to a basic understanding of SEO; you probably have a massive to-do list for your website. Some of the things on your list should you let your developer or website host handle, but there’s so much you can start doing yourself to improve your website’s chances to rank in search results. If not, here’s an idea of what your to-do list might look like:

To-do list

  • Define a holistic SEO-strategy
  • Install the Yoast SEO plugin on my website
  • Check if my website’s accessibility is good
  • Check my site speed and try to improve it
  • Re-evaluate my site structure
  • Implement breadcrumbs in my website
  • Define a keyword strategy
  • Do keyword research
  • Optimize available content for SEO
  • Write great content for appropriate keywords and keyphrases
  • Try building links from other sites to yours
  • Re-evaluate if your website is mobile-friendly
  • Address your developer and website host to get your technical SEO up to par
  • Use Yoast SEO Premium to speed up your work and get awesome features
  • Try and get a rich snippet on the SERP
  • Set up Google Search Console and work on its recommendations
  • Work on your social media page(s)
  • Last but not least: keep reading our blog for the latest tips and tricks

Here you have an extensive list that will keep you occupied for many hours. But we promise that it’s worth it! Some things might be quick wins, while others may seem ineffective. Please keep in mind everything you do will affect your chances to rank. After all, it should be part of your holistic SEO-strategy. Now, you’re ready for more in-depth SEO content, so why not check out our 16 Ultimate Guides to higher rankings?

Feel like you’re ready for the next step in becoming a SEO-professional?

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What is search intent?

SEO is a way to get more traffic to your website. By ranking high in Google, you attract more people to your site. Eventually, your goal probably is to sell your stuff or to attract more regular visitors. To get more traffic to your site, you optimize your content for words people use. However, to increase your chances to rank and to really convince people to buy your stuff, subscribe to your newsletter or to come back to your website another time, you should take search intent into account. Here, I will tell you what search intent is and how to optimize your articles for search intent.

What is search intent?

Search intent (or user intent, audience intent) is the term used to describe the purpose of an online search. It’s the reason why someone conducts a specific search. After all, everyone who does an online search is hoping to find something. Is someone searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they looking to visit a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something? Many of these different types of searches form parts of the user journey.

Over the years, Google has worked hard to improve its algorithm to be able to determine people’s search intent. And, Google wants to rank pages that best fit the search term, as well as the search intent behind a specific search query. That’s why it’s essential to make sure your post or page fits the search intent of your audience.

4 types of search intent

There are a few distinct types of search intent, these four are most commonly used:

Informational intent

First, there is informational intent. Lots of searches on the internet are done by people looking for information. That could be information about the weather, information about educating children, information about SEO, you name it. People with informational intent have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic.

You should be aware that Google’s understanding of intent goes much further than simply showing results that give information about a specific term. It knows, for instance, that people looking for [tomato sauce] are looking for recipes, not for the sauce’s culinary history. It understands that most people typing in [Mercury] are looking for the planet, not the element. Google even understands that for some terms, like [how to build a bird feeder], it’s handy to include videos and images.

Navigational intent

The second type of search intent is called navigational intent. People with this intent want to visit a specific website. For example, people who search for [Facebook] are usually on their way to the Facebook website.

Keep in mind that ranking high for a navigational term is only beneficial for your organic traffic if your site is the site people are looking for. For example, a few years ago, Yoast had a Google Analytics plugin, and we ranked pretty well for the term [Google Analytics]. But that didn’t drive any traffic to our site. People searching for [Google Analytics] were looking for the Google Analytics website and were hardly ever interested in our plugin.

Transactional intent

The third type of search intent is transactional intent. Lots of people buy stuff on the internet and browse the web to find the best purchase. People are searching with transactional intent when their purpose is to buy something.

Commercial investigation

Some people have the intention to buy in the (near) future, and use the web to do their research. What washing machine would be best? Which SEO plugin is the most helpful? These people also have transactional intent but need some more time and convincing. These types of search intents are usually called commercial investigating intents.

Keyword intent

The words people use in their search queries will give insight into user intent. This works the other way around, too, when you formulate keywords with intent-specific words.

Keywords with transactional intent will often contain words like:

  • buy
  • deal
  • discount
  • product names

Informational searches can (but don’t necessarily have to) contain words like:

  • information
  • how to
  • best way to
  • why

How to optimize your content for search intent

You want to make sure that a landing page fits the search intent of your audience. If people search for information, you don’t want to show them a product page. At least, not immediately. You’d probably scare them away. If people want to buy your product, do not bore them with long articles. Lead them to your shop.

Optimizing your product pages for more commercial driven keywords is a good idea. If you sell dog vitamins, you could, for instance, optimize a product (category) page for [buy dog vitamins]. Perhaps you also have an article about administering vitamins. You could, for example, optimize that article for the search term [how to give vitamins to my dog].

It can be quite hard to determine the search intent of a query. And, perhaps different users will have a (slightly) different user intent, but still land on the same page. Luckily, there is a direct source to look at if you want to know which intent fits your keywords: the search results pages. Find out how you can use the results pages to create intent-based content.

If you want to know more about the search intent of your audience, another way is to ask them. You could make a small survey, containing questions about what people were searching for and make that survey pop up if people enter your website. That’ll probably give you many valuable insights into your audience.

Conclusion

It’s crucial to ensure that the content you’re writing fits both the terms people are searching for, as well as the search intent of your audience. Make sure your post or page is informational, when people are searching for information. But lead people to your sales pages if they are looking to buy one of your products.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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What is a permalink?

The permalink is the full URL you see – and use – for any given post, page or other pieces of content on your site. It’s a permanent link, hence the name permalink. A permalink could include your domain name (www.yoast.com) plus what’s called a slug, the piece of the URL that comes after the domain name. This might include a date or a category or anything you please. A simple permalink makes a URL easy to understand and share. In this SEO basics article, we’ll take a closer look at the permalink.

Permalinks should be SEO-friendly

Permalinks are an important part of your site as both search engines and visitors use these URLs to index and visit your site. The type of permalink you pick influences the way these two parties see and value your site. A URL with a load of incomprehensible gibberish at the end is a lot less shareable and enticing than a short and simple SEO-friendly URL. An example permalink could be:

https://www.yoast.com/category/post-name

It could also be something like:

https://www.yoast.com/10/10/2017/post-name

or

https://yoast.com/post-name

By default, WordPress uses a permalink structure that’s not SEO-friendly. These look something like this:

https://yoast.com/?p=101

The number you see is the ID WordPress had in mind for this particular article. It’s article number 101 in the database of your site. While Google still understands the content on that page, a URL like this does nothing for your SEO. It does not describe what kind of content the page offers and it’s not something that users are inclined to share. And did we mention that it’s not very professional looking? If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than any ID or parameter would.

permalink common settings
Common permalink settings in WordPress

Considerations for your permalinks

Make sure you pick a permalink structure that fits your goals. If you have a news site, it might make sense to add the publication date of the article to the URL. If, however, you are planning to write killer cornerstone content that has to stand the test of time, it’s not recommended to use a date in the URL as this could make the content look ‘old’.

We recommend using a simple and clear permalink structure. For most sites, it makes sense to append the post name to the domain name. So in WordPress that would be the /postname/ option. In some cases, a category will help create a hierarchy in the URLs. Keep in mind that this could also result in too long URLs.

Yoast SEO and permalinks

Yoast SEO is a must-have tool that makes SEO available to everyone. It’s an easy to use tool that helps you make a perfect website. For instance, if you install WordPress and don’t change the default permalink settings, Yoast SEO will urge you to change it. Yoast SEO has several other options that can help you clean up those permalinks, like stripping the category base (usually category).

If you’re changing a permalink or deleting a page, we prevent users from landing on a 404 error page. Yoast SEO Premium has a brilliant redirect manager that helps you do that. It will create a 301 redirect automatically if you change the permalink of a page. In addition to that, it asks if you’d like to create a 301 redirect if you delete a page. Just enter the URL you want your visitors to go to and you’re done!

Finally, a word of warning

Pick your permalink structure wisely. Don’t change your permalink structure for the sake of it. Incorrectly redirecting your old URLs to the new URLs might lead to problems and could get you dropped from the rankings. Please think about your permalink structure before launching your site. Should you need to change your permalinks you can find more information on how to change your permalink structure or visit Google’s page on moving your site.

Read more: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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5 reasons why your site isn’t showing up on Google

You’ve done all the hard work — got a hosting package, installed WordPress, picked a nice theme and wrote some content. You hit publish on your first post. Time to rake in that traffic, right? But, when looking for your own site in Google you can’t seem to find it anywhere. You throw your hands in the air: “My website isn’t showing up on Google, what’s going on!?” Well, here are five reasons that might explain why you can’t find your site.

1: It’s too fresh, Google doesn’t know about it yet

First, don’t panic! If your site is new, it might simply be a matter chilling out and checking back in a little while. There’s a lot of moving parts in getting your site crawled, indexed and ranked. Sometimes, it takes days or maybe even weeks for Google to discover your site.

You can look up your site with the site: search operator in Google. Type site:yoast.com and you’ll see a list of pages found on that domain. If you type in the full URL of a specific article, you should see only one search result return. If you see your pages, this means that Google does know about your site and has put — at least some of it — in its index. Once you discover that your page is in the index, but you think it is not performing well, you might want to dig deeper.

The site: search operator helps you find your site in Google’s index

Do install Yoast SEO and submit the generated XML sitemap to Google Search Console to help speed up Google’s discovery process. In Search Console, you can also use the URL Inspection tool to find out how specific pages are doing. It tells you exactly how Google crawls and views your site.

As you wait, please read up on how Google works and how to start with SEO. You can also run a quick SEO audit to see if you’ve missed something.

2: You’ve noindexed your site or the piece of content

One of the most common reasons for Google not indexing your site or a specific page is because it has — inadvertently — got noindexed. Adding the noindex meta robots tags to a page tells Googlebot that it can crawl a page, but that the results can’t be added to the index.

How to check if your page is noindexed? That’s easy, simply open the page and view the source code. Somewhere in the head of the page, you’ll find the code below. This tells search engines crawlers that the content of the page shouldn’t be added to the index and, thus, keep it from ranking.

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

It happens! Even we occasionally make a mistake and inadvertently noindex a post. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. Willemien describes how to set a piece of content back on the right track with Yoast SEO.

3: Google can’t crawl your site

You might have told Google not to index your content, but it’s also possible you’ve told Google not to crawl your site at all! Blocking crawlers in a so-called robots.txt file is a sure-fire way to never get any traffic. Blocking robots is easier than you might think. For instance, WordPress has a Search Engine Visibility setting that — once set to Discourage search engines from indexing this site — does its utmost best to keep crawlers out. Uncheck this to make your site available again.

Uncheck this if you ever want your WordPress so end up in Google

From WordPress 5.3 on, WordPress uses the noindex approach described in point 2 to handle indexing of sites via the Search Engine Visibility setting. This change was necessary because Google sometimes still indexed pages it encountered.

Besides telling WordPress to block search engines, it might be that other technical issues generate crawl errors preventing Google from properly crawling your site. Your site’s web server could be acting up and presenting server errors or buggy bits of JavaScript in your code trip up the crawler. Make sure Google can easily crawl your site.

4: Your content is not up to par and/or doesn’t match users intent

There could be number of technical reasons why your site doesn’t show in Google. That’s not the whole story, though. It can also be your content. Your content might simply not be good or authoritative enough for Google to pick for that specific keyphrase. Think about how you as a human being would find your site. Don’t focus on Google.

Content not showing up in Google might “simply” be the case of not matching with what the searcher is expecting. Your content might not fit the search intent of the user. In this case, you have to do keyword research and take a good look at search intent as well. What do people search for, in what terms and what do they mean to do? Once you know that, you can use Yoast SEO the help you write awesome content.

Keep in mind that maybe, just maybe, your site operates in a highly competitive industry. Without focusing on the long tail, it’ll probably be impossible to end up with good rankings.

5: Your content lacks high-quality backlinks

Way back when Google was just a fledging start-up, rankings were determined in part by popularity. The thinking was that the more links a site or page got, the more people view this site as a valuable source and Google should put it at the top of the results page. While a lot has changed in over two decades, links still play a part in the discoverability and ranking of content. You can rank without links, but it’s just damn hard.

Creating incredible content is a good way to get links to your pages. High-quality content tends to attract clicks from readers who might also share the content far and wide via social media as well. All this helps to get those links. Of course, there’s more you can do to get links in a natural, non-spammy way: here are fifteen ways of getting high-quality backlinks.

Ps: Fixing your internal links also helps Google and searchers discover your content!

Bonus: Have you been hit by a manual action?

A quick one to cap off this article: if your site isn’t showing up on Google, it might be because of a manual action — a penalty. There are a lot of reasons why you could get a manual action, but the most common ones are because of spammy links or violations of the Google rules. Sites that get a manual action tend to try to operate in a shady way to misguide search engines into giving them a high ranking.

Normally, site owners get an email from Google telling them that their site has received a manual action. You can also simply check the Manual Actions page in Google Search Console.

There are more reasons

This is not an all-encompassing post as there are numerous reason for a site or post not showing up in Google. This post gives you a quick idea where to look when not seeing your post in a search engine. If you want to improve your rankings, there are ways to write high-quality and SEO-friendly blog posts.

The post 5 reasons why your site isn’t showing up on Google appeared first on Yoast.

How to start with SEO?

You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running. 

So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!

  1. Install Yoast SEO

    Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.

  2. Get that first link

    Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!

  3. What do you want to rank for?

    Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? And what’s their search intent, what kind of content are they looking for? Find out as much as you can about your audience.

    SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. It’s also important to analyze what you’re seeing in the search results pages when entering your keywords. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.

  4. Set realistic goals

    For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.

    If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.

  5. Internal linking

    As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking. 

    If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.

  6. Start writing

    In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.

    While you’re writing, make sure to use the words you want to be found for. Use them in headings and in the introduction and conclusion of your text. After writing your text, you should optimize your SEO title and your meta description. The Yoast SEO plugin will help you to do all these things.

  7. Get those links!

    External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.

    Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.

And then what?

The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!

Read more: WordPress SEO the definitive guide »

The post How to start with SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO

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

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

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

A beginner‘s guide to Yoast SEO

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

In this post, we’ll cover:

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

    Configuring Yoast SEO: configuration wizard

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

    yoast seo configuration wizard 1

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

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

    Other settings

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

    Using the Yoast SEO metabox

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

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

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

    The readability analysis

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

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

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

    Why is readability important?

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

    Government rulings and readability

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

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

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

    Snippet preview

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

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

    SEO Analysis

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

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

    Our SEO analysis currently includes the following checks:

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

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

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

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

    Does every light need to be green?

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

    Next level: Cornerstone content

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

    A bit more advanced: Yoast Dashboard

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

    Search Appearance

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

    search appearance yoast seo

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

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

    Beginner's guide to Yoast SEO: page titles

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

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

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

    Keep reading: Snippet variables in Yoast SEO »

    Yoast SEO for beginners

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

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

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

    Read on: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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

What is link building?

Link building is an essential aspect of SEO. You can write the perfect post, but if search engines can’t follow at least one link to it, it will most likely spend its days forever waiting in vain for visitors to admire its outstanding content. For Google to find your post, it needs links from other websites. The more links, the better. But, beware, the quality of links does matter! Not every link is worth the same. Even worse: some links could negatively affect your site. Here, we’ll explain how link building works. We’ll also guide you to more in-depth articles if you want to learn how to do it well.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!

What is a link?

Simply put, a link, or a hyperlink, is a connection between two pages on the internet. With a link you can refer people to a page, post, image or other object on the internet. Links exist for people in the first place: with a link you can easily “travel” from one web location to another.

But links serve search engines well too; search engine robots follow links to discover pages on the internet. This is called crawling. For a robot to find your website, you’ll need at least one hyperlink to it from a website that gets crawled already. Making sure you get that first link is one of the things you really need to do when you launch a brand new website.

A link in HTML

In the coding language HTML, a hyperlink looks like this:

<a href=”https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/”>Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress</a>.

The first part contains the URL you’re linking to. In this case, it’s the URL of the Yoast SEO plugin page (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/). The second part (Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress) shows the clickable text that you’d see on the page. We call this piece of text the ‘anchor text’.

Anchor text

The anchor text serves two purposes: it should describe what the linked page is about and it should entice people to click. If a link has a well-crafted anchor text, this has two advantages: 1) More people click on it, leading to more direct traffic and 2) It will help search engines understand what your page is about, possibly leading to more traffic from search engines. Of course, you can’t control how others link to your site, but you can use it to improve your internal links.

What is link building?

Link building refers to the marketing efforts to get links from other websites to your website. It’s seen as one of the most powerful tools to achieve higher rankings for your site in search engines. If a lot of high-quality links lead to a certain page, search engines will consider it a popular or meaningful article, and, therefore, they’ll rank it higher.

Link quality

Links aren’t all equal. Some links are worth more than others. For instance, a link from an authoritative website, preferably topically related to yours, is worth more than a random link from a small website nobody knows. So, if you have a restaurant, you’d rather get a link from a restaurant review (on topic) on The Guardian website (high authority), than, let’s say, a link from your aunt’s horseback-riding school website. This makes choosing sites you’d love to get links from easier, but at the same time, it makes it a lot harder to get those coveted high-quality links.

Shady techniques

Because link building isn’t easy, lots of shady link building methods emerged in the past. People tried to game the system, for instance, by buying links from link farms. That’s why link building has got a somewhat nasty reputation.

Consequently, Google intervened with serious penalties as a result. If your site gets linked to from websites with a questionable reputation, it can completely disappear from the search results. So you better refrain from any of these risky link building tricks. If you play it fair and smart though, you can gain a lot from link building.

What should you do to get links?

Now we get to the million dollar question: what should you do to get those valuable links? We believe in a holistic link building approach. You’ll have to create a website that people want to link to. It sounds so simple: Create high-quality, funny, original or exceptional content people want to share. But how do you do this?

First and foremost, find out who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your content? What kind of content do they need? What information are they looking for and what kind of questions do they ask? Which words do they use? And, what kind of websites do they visit?

If you can answer these questions, it will be easier to create content that fits your audience’s needs (for instance, by using the principles of content design). Also, when you’ve created that page with valuable content for your audience, and you know where your audience is (which websites they visit), you’ll have a starting point for your link building activities: you can start reaching out to those website owners. That’s what link building is, in a nutshell: Sharing your article with parties that might be interested in sharing it too. That’s why it’s key to target the right niche for your shop or blog. This focus decreases the number of people you’ll have to contact and increases the chances of actually getting a link.

People will only link from their website to yours if it’s in their audience’s (or their own) interest. Convincing them to link will only happen if your product or content really is exceptional. Offering them to try or use your product (if you have one) for free might help convince them. And always make sure to contact them personally, as this will lead to better results. Read all about this process in our step by step guide to link building.

Link building for bloggers and pros

Link building requires time, effort and persistence. As a blogger, you might dread link building even more. If you can relate to this, Caroline’s post on her struggles with link building as a blogger is a great read.

Have your bases covered and want to take it a step further? Then we’d advise you to read this article with advanced link building tips by Kris Jones. You’ll learn which tools you can use to find out which sites already link to you and what you can do to get more of those. Find out everything about broken link building, reclamation link building, the so-called skyscraper technique and more.

Pssst… if reaching out really isn’t your thing, you can always start with some “internal link building”: fix your internal linking structure!

The post What is link building? appeared first on Yoast.

What’s technical SEO? 8 technical aspects everyone should know

An SEO Basics post about technical SEO might seem like a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, some basic knowledge about the more technical side of SEO can mean the difference between a high ranking site and a site that doesn’t rank at all. Technical SEO isn’t easy, but here we’ll explain – in layman’s language – which aspects you should (ask your developer to) pay attention to when working on the technical foundation of your website.

What is technical SEO?

Technical SEO refers to improving the technical aspects of a website in order to increase the ranking of its pages in the search engines. Making a website faster, easier to crawl and understandable for search engines are the pillars of technical optimization. Technical SEO is part of on-page SEO, which focuses on improving elements on your website to get higher rankings. It’s the opposite of off-page SEO, which is about generating exposure for a website through other channels.

Why should you optimize your site technically?

Google and other search engines want to present their users with the best possible results for their query. Therefore, Google’s robots crawl and evaluate web pages on a multitude of factors. Some factors are based on the user’s experience, like how fast a page loads. Other factors help search engine robots grasp what your pages are about. This is what, amongst others, structured data does. So, by improving technical aspects you help search engines crawl and understand your site. If you do this well, you might be rewarded with higher rankings or even rich results.

It also works the other way around: if you make serious technical mistakes on your site, they can cost you. You wouldn’t be the first to block search engines entirely from crawling your site by accidentally adding a trailing slash in the wrong place in your robots.txt file.

But it’s a misconception you should focus on technical details of a website just to please search engines. A website should work well – be fast, clear and easy to use – for your users in the first place. Fortunately, creating a strong technical foundation often coincides with a better experience for both users and search engines.

What are the characteristics of a technically optimized website?

A technically sound website is fast for users and easy to crawl for search engine robots. A proper technical setup helps search engines to understand what a site is about and it prevents confusion caused by, for instance, duplicate content. Moreover, it doesn’t send visitors, nor search engines, into dead-end streets by non-working links. Here, we’ll shortly go into some important characteristics of a technically optimized website.

1. It’s fast

Nowadays, web pages need to load fast. People are impatient and don’t want to wait for a page to open. In 2016 already, research showed that 53% of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn’t open within three seconds. So if your website is slow, people get frustrated and move on to another website, and you’ll miss out on all that traffic.

Google knows slow web pages offer a less than optimal experience. Therefore they prefer web pages that load faster. So, a slow web page also ends up further down the search results than its faster equivalent, resulting in even less traffic.

Wondering if your website is fast enough? Read how to easily test your site speed. Most tests will also give you pointers on what to improve. We’ll guide you through common site speed optimization tips here.

2. It’s crawlable for search engines

Search engines use robots to crawl or spider your website. The robots follow links to discover content on your site. A great internal linking structure will make sure that they’ll understand what the most important content on your site is.

But there are more ways to guide robots. You can, for instance, block them from crawling certain content if you don’t want them to go there. You can also let them crawl a page, but tell them not to show this page in the search results or not to follow the links on that page.

Robots.txt file

You can give robots directions on your site by using the robots.txt file. It’s a powerful tool, which should be handled carefully. As we mentioned in the beginning, a small mistake might prevent robots from crawling (important parts of) your site. Sometimes, people unintentionally block their site’s CSS and JS files in the robot.txt file. These files contain code that tells browsers what your site should look like and how it works. If those files are blocked, search engines can’t find out if your site works properly.

All in all, we recommend to really dive into robots.txt if you want to learn how it works. Or, perhaps even better, let a developer handle it for you!

The meta robots tag

The robots meta tag is a piece of code that you won’t see on the page as a visitor. It’s in the source code in the so-called head section of a page. Robots read this section when finding a page. In it, they’ll find information about what they’ll find on the page or what they need to do with it.

If you want search engine robots to crawl a page, but to keep it out of the search results for some reason, you can tell them with the robots meta tag. With the robots meta tag, you can also instruct them to crawl a page, but not to follow the links on the page. With Yoast SEO it’s easy to noindex or nofollow a post or page. Learn for which pages you’d want to do that.

Read more: https://yoast.com/what-is-crawlability/

3. It doesn’t have (many) dead links

We’ve discussed that slow websites are frustrating. What might be even more annoying for visitors than a slow page, is landing on a page that doesn’t exist at all. If a link leads to a non-existing page on your site, people will encounter a 404 error page. There goes your carefully crafted user experience!

What’s more, search engines don’t like to find these error pages either. And, they tend to find even more dead links than visitors encounter because they follow every link they bump into, even if it’s hidden.

Unfortunately, most sites have (at least) some dead links, because a website is a continuous work in progress: people make things and break things. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you retrieve dead links on your site. Read about those tools and how to solve 404 errors.

To prevent unnecessary dead links, you should always redirect the URL of a page when you delete it or move it. Ideally, you’d redirect it to a page that replaces the old page. With Yoast SEO Premium, you can easily make redirects yourself. No need for a developer!

Read more: https://yoast.com/what-is-a-redirect/

4. It doesn’t confuse search engines with duplicate content

If you have the same content on multiple pages of your site – or even on other sites – search engines might get confused. Because, if these pages show the same content, which one should they rank highest? As a result, they might rank all pages with the same content lower.

Unfortunately, you might have a duplicate content issue without even knowing it. Because of technical reasons, different URLs can show the same content. For a visitor, this doesn’t make any difference, but for a search engine it does; it’ll see the same content on a different URL.

Luckily, there’s a technical solution to this issue. With the so-called, canonical link element you can indicate what the original page – or the page you’d like to rank in the search engines – is. In Yoast SEO you can easily set a canonical URL for a page. And, to make it easy for you, Yoast SEO adds self-referencing canonical links to all your pages. This will help prevent duplicate content issues that you’d might not even be aware of.

5. It’s secure

A technically optimized website is a secure website. Making your website safe for users to guarantee their privacy is a basic requirement nowadays. There are many things you can do to make your (WordPress) website secure, and one of the most crucial things is implementing HTTPS.

HTTPS makes sure that no-one can intercept the data that’s sent over between the browser and the site. So, for instance, if people log in to your site, their credentials are safe. You’ll need a so-called SSL certificate to implement HTTPS on your site. Google acknowledges the importance of security and therefore made HTTPS a ranking signal: secure websites rank higher than unsafe equivalents.

You can easily check if your website is HTTPS in most browsers. On the left hand side of the search bar of your browser, you’ll see a lock if it’s safe. If you see the words “not secure” you (or your developer) have some work to do!

Read more: SEO Basics: What is HTTPS?

6. Plus: it has structured data

Structured data helps search engines understand your website, content or even your business better. With structured data you can tell search engines, what kind of product you sell or which recipes you have on your site. Plus, it will give you the opportunity to provide all kinds of details about those products or recipes.

Because there’s a fixed format (described on Schema.org) in which you should provide this information, search engines can easily find and understand it. It helps them to place your content in a bigger picture. Here, you can read a story about how it works and how Yoast SEO helps you with that.

Implementing structured data can bring you more than just a better understanding by search engines. It also makes your content eligible for rich results; those shiny results with stars or details that stand out in the search results.

7. Plus: It has an XML sitemap

Simply put, an XML sitemap is a list of all pages of your site. It serves as a roadmap for search engines on your site. With it, you’ll make sure search engines won’t miss any important content on your site. The XML sitemap is often categorized in posts, pages, tags or other custom post types and includes the number of images and the last modified date for every page.

Ideally, a website doesn’t need an XML sitemap. If it has an internal linking structure which connects all content nicely, robots won’t need it. However, not all sites have a great structure, and having an XML sitemap won’t do any harm. So we’d always advise having an XML site map on your site.

8. Plus: International websites use hreflang

If your site targets more than one country or countries where the same language is spoken, search engines need a little help to understand which countries or language you’re trying to reach. If you help them, they can show people the right website for their area in the search results.

Hreflang tags help you do just that. You can define for a page which country and language it is meant for. This also solves a possible duplicate content problem: even if your US and UK site show the same content, Google will know it’s written for a different region.

Optimizing international websites is quite a specialism. If you’d like to learn how to make your international sites rank, we’d advise taking a look at our Multilingual SEO training.

Want to learn more about this?

So this is technical SEO in a nutshell. It’s quite a lot already, while we’ve only scratched the surface here. There’s so much more to tell about the technical side of SEO! If you want to take a deep-dive into technical SEO, we’d advise our Technical SEO training or Structured data training. With these courses, you’ll learn how to create a solid technical foundation for your own website.

PS You’re the ambitious type? Get both training courses together and save $59!

Read more: https://yoast.com/wordpress-seo/

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What is the difference between a keyword and a keyphrase?

You’ve probably heard that doing keyword research is an essential, first step in optimizing your website properly. But how about these keywords: can they only be single words or can they also be longer multi-word keyphrases? And what exactly is the difference between the two? In this SEO basics post, we’ll explain the difference between a keyword and a keyphrase.

What is a keyword?

Keyphrase versus long tail keyword
You’ve probably also heard of long tail keywords and that these are more specific than focus keywords. Most of the time – but not necessarily – they consist of more words. You might wonder what the difference is between long tail keywords and keyphrases? Keyphrases by definition exist of more than one word and they can be either general or specific. Long tail keywords may consist of more words, but they do not always. The main difference between the two is that keyphrases can be general or specific, e.g. [puppy training] or [puppy training for deaf dogs] whilst long tail keywords are always more specific [puppy training location in LA].

A (focus) keyword is a word that describes the content of your page or post best. It’s the search term that you want to rank for with a certain page. So when people search for that keyword in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.

E.g. Your website is about dogs, and you’ve just written a blog post all about puppies. The keyword that describes the content of that post best is probably: “puppy”.

What is a keyphrase?

A (focus) keyphrase is the search term that you most want your post or page to rank for, so when people search for that keyphrase, they should find you.

E.g. Your website is all about dogs, and you’ve just written a blog post all about how puppies can become obedient. The keyphrase that describes the content of the post best is something along the lines of: “puppy obedience training”

What are the differences?

Keywords or keyphrases should both describe the essence of what the post is about. The difference between the two is that keywords are single words, while keyphrases are made up of a few words.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

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