Crawl errors occur when a search engine tries to reach a page on your website but fails at it. Let’s shed some more light on crawling first. Crawling is the process where a search engine tries to visit every page of your website via a bot. A search engine bot finds a link to your website and starts to find all your public pages from there. The bot crawls the pages and indexes all the contents for use in Google, plus adds all the links on these pages to the pile of pages it still has to crawl. Your main goal as a website owner is to make sure the search engine bot can get to all pages on the site. Failing this process returns what we call crawl errors.

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Your goal is to make sure that every link on your website leads to an actual page. That might be via a 301 redirect, but the page at the very end of that link should always return a 200 OK server response.

Google divides crawl errors into two groups:

  1. Site errors. You don’t want these, as they mean your entire site can’t be crawled.
  2. URL errors. You don’t want these either, but since they only relate to one specific URL per error, they are easier to maintain and fix.

Let’s elaborate on that.

Site errors

Site errors are all the crawl errors that prevent the search engine bot from accessing your website. That can have many reasons,  these being the most common:

  • DNS Errors. This means a search engine isn’t able to communicate with your server. It might be down, for instance, meaning your website can’t be visited. This is usually a temporary issue. Google will come back to your website later and crawl your site anyway. If you see notices of this in your Google Search Console at crawl errors, that probably means Google has tried a couple of times and still wasn’t able to.
  • Server errors. If your search console shows server errors, this means the bot wasn’t able to access your website. The request might have timed out. The search engine (f.i.) tried to visit your site, but it took so long to load that the server served an error message. Server errors also occur when there are flaws in your code that prevent a page from loading. It can also mean that your site has so many visitors that the server just couldn’t handle all the requests. A lot of these errors are returned as 5xx status codes, like the 500 and 503 status codes described here.
  • Robots failure. Before crawling, (f.i.) Googlebot tries to crawl your robots.txt file as well, just to see if there are any areas on your website you’d rather not have indexed. If that bot can’t reach the robots.txt file, Google will postpone the crawl until it can reach the robots.txt file. So always make sure it’s available.

That explains a tad bit about crawl errors related to your entire site. Now let’s see what kind of crawl errors might occur for specific pages.

URL errors

As mentioned, URL errors refer to crawl errors that occur when a search engine bot tries to crawl a specific page of your website. When we discuss URL errors, we tend to discuss crawl errors like (soft) 404 Not Found errors first. You should frequently check for these type of errors (useGoogle Search Console or Bing webmaster tools) and fix ’em. If the page/subject of that page indeed is gone never to return to your website, serve a 410 page. If you have similar content on another page, please use a 301 redirect instead. Make sure your sitemap and internal links are up to date as well, obviously.

We found that a lot of these URL errors are caused by internal links, by the way. So a lot of these errors are your fault. If you remove a page from your site at some point, adjust or remove any inbound links to it as well. These links have no use anymore. If that link remains the same, a bot will find it and follow it, only to find a dead end (404 Not found error). On your website. You need to do some maintenance now and then on your internal links!

Among these common errors might be an occasional DNS error or server error for that specific URL. Re-check that URL later and see if the error has vanished. Be sure to use fetch as Google and mark the error as fixed in Google Search Console if that is your main monitoring tool in this. Our plugin can help you with that.

Very specific URL errors

There are some URL errors that apply to certain sites only. That’s why I’d like to list these separately:

  • Mobile-specific URL errors. This refers to page-specific crawl errors that occur on a modern smartphone. If you have a responsive website, these are unlikely to surface. Perhaps just for that piece of Flash content you wanted to replace already. If you maintain a separate mobile subdomain like m.example.com, you might run into more errors. Thing along the lines of faulty redirects from your desktop site to that mobile site. You might even have blocked some of that mobile site with a line in your robots.txt.
  • Malware errors. If you encounter malware errors in your webmaster tools, this means Bing or Google has found malicious software on that URL. That might mean that software is found that is used, for instance, “to gather guarded information, or to disrupt their operation in general.”(Wikipedia). You need to investigate that page and remove the malware.
  • Google News errors. There are some specific Google News errors. There’s quite a list of these possible errors in Google’s documentation, so if your website is in Google News, you might get these crawl errors. They vary from the lack of a title to errors that tell you that your page doesn’t seem to contain a news article at all. Be sure to check for yourself if this applies to your site.

Fix your crawl errors

The bottom line in this article is definitely: if you encounter crawl errors, fix them. It should be part of your site’s maintenance schedule to check for crawl errors now and then. Besides that, if you have installed our premium plugin, you’ll have a convenient way in WordPress and/or TYPO3 to prevent crawl errors when for instance deleting a page. Be sure to check these features yourselves!

Read more: ‘Google Search Console: Crawl’ »

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Tags and categories help us structure our content. You can often find these in the visual metadata at for instance blog posts, or in a list of clickable links in the sidebar of a website. Tags are sometimes represented as a tag cloud, although most websites refrain from using that element these days. There is a clear difference between tags and categories, but a lot of users mix them up. Now in most cases, that won’t matter for the end user. But for instance, in WordPress, there are some benefits by using categories for certain segmentations and tags for others. Here, I’d like to explain the difference between tags and categories.

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WordPress taxonomies

WordPress uses taxonomies for content grouping. The most common, default taxonomies in WordPress are categories and tags, but it’s also possible to create a custom taxonomy. We have written about these custom taxonomies before, so for background information, please read the post “What are custom taxonomies?

A taxonomy can be defined as “orderly classification” (Source: Merriam Webster). This indicates some hierarchy or structure, which often goes into categories. In WordPress, categories can be parents or children of each other. Often, tags in WordPress don’t have that structure and are often used quite randomly. If you don’t control how you add tags to posts, you will probably end up with a huge number of tags on your website. The downside of this is that a lot of tags are used only once, which makes the tag page the same as the post where you added the tag. This may create duplicate content or at least thin content.

The difference between tags and categories

Back to our original questions: what’s the difference? In an ideal world, we would use categories to group the content on your website into — say — eight to ten global segments. On our blog, these segments are for instance Analytics, Content SEO, eCommerce and Technical SEO. By maintaining a limited set of categories, you can keep your website, and your content focused. Now, of course, you can dissect the content even further, going to more particular groupings. For that, you should use tags.

WordPress describes the difference exactly like that:

  • Categories allowed for a broad grouping of post topics.
  • Tags are used to describe your post in more detail.

The fact that categories can be hierarchical means that there’s a bit more content structure to be made with just categories if that’s what you are looking for. You can have a group of posts about trees, and have a child category or subgroup about elms. Makes sense, right? It also means that you can have URLs like /category/trees/elms, which displays that structure right in the URL already. You can’t do this with tags. The tag in this example could be “Boston”. It’s unrelated to the tree’s characteristics but could indicate where for instance a photo of an elm in that post is located.

At least one category per post is required

There is one more difference between tags and categories in WordPress: you need to add at least one category to a post. If you forget to do so, the post will be added to the default category. That would be “Uncategorized” unless you set a default category in WordPress at Settings > Writing:

tags and categories: set a default post category

Please do so, as you will understand the default “Uncategorized” makes no sense to your readers. It looks like poor maintenance, right? With tags, you don’t have this issue, as tags are not obligated at all. You could even decide to refrain from using tags until you need them and even then perhaps use a custom taxonomy instead. In that case, you will have that second layer of segmentation without the limitation of tags. I hope that clarifies the difference between tags and categories!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: (The importance of) site structure’ »

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Anchor text is the visible and clickable piece of text in a link. The text appears in a different color and is often underlined. If done right, this indicates what’s behind that link. Getting your anchor texts right increases the chance of someone clicking on your link. It also provides context for search engines.

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What does an anchor text look like?

The anchor text describes the article and entices you to click. Even search engines get that the linked article is relevant because both the URL as well as the anchor text appears to be in order. Let’s say you want to learn something about anchor text. [What is anchor text] exactly? You see that I naturally linked to the article you are reading now.

What does an anchor text look like in HTML? The first piece of code is the URL, while the second part describes the link. This is the anchor text. See below:
anchor text example

Different kinds

Anchor text is relevant for both your internal links and your incoming external links. External sites that want to link to your content can do so in various ways.

  • Branded links: A link with your brand name as an anchor, like Yoast.
  • The URL itself: Just your site’s URL without a text, like https://yoast.com. Not that helpful in most instances.
  • Site name: written as Yoast.com.
  • Article title: Exact matching the article, like What is anchor text?.
  • Exact keywords: Your focus keyword/keyphrase as anchor text
  • Partially matching keywords: Using variants of your focus keyword to make a readable link.
  • Related keywords: Not a direct match, but a keyword or keyphrase that is closely related to the main one.
  • Generic links: Try to avoid these ‘Click here’ and ‘Read more’ links. Tell people what a link is about. Otherwise, they’re guessing.

Best practices for anchor texts

It’s not exactly rocket science because writing a relevant anchor text is common sense. A link must provide value for a user, and the anchor text is the most important way of conveying the value of that link. Keep it natural. Don’t make crappy sentences to put in your exact match keywords or keyphrases. If it doesn’t sound natural when you say it aloud, don’t write it. Also, don’t turn a complete sentence into the anchor text. Keep it condensed and easy to understand.

Don’ts in anchor texts

First of all, keep your links relevant. Don’t spam your anchor text and don’t use generic anchor text to try to get people to visit your link. Don’t stuff your anchor text full of keywords. You shouldn’t use a text that has no relation to the linked content. Whatever you do, don’t fool your users. Nobody likes this. This also goes for trying to get your site design to stand out from the crowd with a link that doesn’t look like a link. Keep the different font color and underline it. Otherwise, people will easily miss your link.

Of course, you don’t have much control over how other sites link to your site. You can, however, set up a link building strategy that has a bigger chance of getting those coveted relevant links with great anchor texts.

Internal linking and anchor texts

We all know internal linking is essential. Yoast SEO has an internal linking tool built in that makes it a lot easier to find related content to link to on your site. Whenever you add a relevant link to your article, you also need to think about the anchor text. By thinking carefully about how and why you link to these articles to improve your internal linking structure you can help both users and search engines to navigate your site better.

To make the most of internal linking try only to add links that add real value to users. Write great anchor texts for them, so readers know this link has been carefully selected to let you read on. Don’t link for the sake of it. Make it relevant and useful. And of course; don’t spam!

seo basics anchor text exact match example

An example of an exact match

seo basics anchor text freeflowing text

An example of a more free-flowing form of linking

This is anchor text

Anchor text helps both searchers and search engines determine if a link is worth visiting. Some people try to game this system, but you sure shouldn’t do this. Google has become pretty adequate at determining which links are unnatural and even harmful. So, keep it natural and relevant, and you should be good to go!

Read more: ‘SEO basics: What is a permalink?’ »

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When looking for information about keywords in relation to SEO, you get bombarded with information about keyword research. And of course, keyword research is crucial if you’d like your page to rank. But it’s also important to understand what the basic principle of a keyword is. And that’s the thing I’ll explain here.

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What is a keyword?

A keyword, or a focus keyword as some call it, is a word that describes the content on 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 or phrase in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.

Let’s say you’ve got a website about pianos: you sell all sorts and types of pianos. You blog about what to look at when buying a piano and you share reviews about the pianos you offer on your online shop. You sell digital pianos so you’ve created a product category page about digital pianos. Ask yourself this:

  • What kind of search term do you want to be found for?
  • Which words do you think people will use in search engines to find you?
  • What would the search query look like?

Probably [digital piano], right? Because this keyword reflects what’s on the page best. If you’d have to explain the bottom line of your content, how would that look? What words would you use? That’s your keyword or key phrase – if it consists of multiple words.

We use the word ‘keyword’ all the time, this does not mean it consists of only one word. A lot of times keywords consist of multiple words. So when talking about keywords, a lot of times we mean a phrase instead of just one word.

Why are keywords important?

One of the things Google looks at when ranking a page is the content on that page. It looks at the words on the page. Now picture this, if every word on, for instance, a blog post about a digital piano is used 2 times, then all words are of equal importance. Google won’t have a clue which of those words are important and which aren’t. The words you’re using are clues for Google, it tells Google and other search engines what the page or post is about. So if you want to make Google understand what your page is about, you need to use it fairly often.

But Google isn’t the only reason why keywords are important. Actually, it’s less important, because you should always focus on the user: on your visitors and potential clients. With SEO you want people to land on your website when using a certain search term or keyword. You need to get into the heads of your audience and use the words they use when they are searching.

If you use the wrong keywords, you’ll never get the visitors you want or need, because your text doesn’t match what your potential audience is searching for. But if you do use the keywords people are searching for, your business can thrive. So if you see it like that, your keywords should reflect what your audience is searching for. With the wrong keywords, you’ll end up with the wrong audience, or none at all. That’s why having the right keywords is really important.

How do you use keywords in your pages and posts?

There used to be a time where you could add a lot of keywords to your pages and posts, do some old-fashioned keyword stuffing, and you’d rank in search engines. But a text with a lot of the same keywords in it is not a pleasant read. And because users find this kind of copy terrible to read, Google finds it terrible too. That’s why ranking in Google by doing keyword stuffing, fortunately, became hard to do. 

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So what are the rules of thumb here? First and foremost, it’s very important that your content is easy to read. Of course, you should use your keywords in your text, but don’t stuff your keywords in almost every sentence. In general, if 1 or 2% of all words of your copy, is your keyword, then you’re not overdoing it. Make sure your keywords are well-distributed throughout your text. Don’t put all your keywords in the first paragraph thinking you’re done with that part of the optimization. Naturally spread the keywords throughout your page or post. Use your keywords in a subheading or a couple of subheadings, depending on the length of your page or post. And use the keyword in your page title, first paragraph and in your meta description. You can find all of these recommendations in the SEO analysis of Yoast SEO.

Now you have a common understanding of what a keyword is. This knowledge will really help you with your keyword research, which of course is the next and vital step!

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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At Yoast, we like to say ‘Content is king’. By this, we mean that you cannot rank for any keyword if you don’t write meaningful and original content about it. In this SEO basics post, I’ll explain why you absolutely need content to make your site attractive for your visitors. Also, I’ll clarify why Google dislikes low quality or thin content and what you can do about it.

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Thin content

So what is thin content? Thin content is content that has little or no value to the user. Google considers doorway pages, low quality affiliate pages, or simply pages with very little or no content as thin content pages. But don’t fall into the trap of just producing loads of very similar content: non-original pages, pages with scraped and duplicate content, are considered thin content pages too. On top of that, Google doesn’t like pages that are stuffed with keywords either. Google has gotten smarter and has learned to distinguish between valuable and low quality content, especially since Google Panda.

What does Google want?

Google tries to provide the best results that match the search intent of the user. If you want to rank high, you have to convince Google that you’re giving the answer to the question of the user. This isn’t possible if you’re not willing to write extensively on the topic you like to rank for. Thin content rarely qualifies for Google as the best result. As a minimum, Google has to know what your page is about to know if it should display your result to the user. So try to write enjoyable, informative copy, to make Google, but first an foremost, your users happy.

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

Be the best result

We recommend writing meaningful copy about the keywords you’d like to rank for. If you keep a blog about your favorite hobby, this shouldn’t be much of a problem, right? If you write about something you love and know everything about, then it’s easy to show Google that your pages contain the expert answer they are looking for!

We do understand that every situation is different and that it’s not always possible to write an elaborate text about everything. For instance, if you own an online shop that sells hundreds of different computer parts, it can be a challenge to write an extensive text about everything. But at least make sure that every page has some original introductory content, instead of just an image and a buy button next to the price. If you sell lots of products that are very alike, you could also choose to optimize the category page instead of the product page or to use canonicals to prevent duplicate content issues.

How do we help you?

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you write awesome copy. It does that by providing content analysis checks. One of these checks is to write at least 300 words per page or posts. We also check if you haven’t used the same keyword before, which helps prevent you from creating similar content over and over. Another check that’s useful for this, is our keyword density check. If your score is too high, you’re probably stuffing your keyword into your copy, giving it an unnatural feel. So make sure at least these bullets are green.

content checks thin content

On top of that, you can use our readability check to make sure the quality of your text is good and readers can easily understand the text you’ve written.

Really want to learn how to create content that ranks? Then our SEO copywriting training probably is what you need. It guides you through the entire process of keyword research and content creation, helping you to develop the skills to write awesome content for your website!

Keep reading: ‘Content SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

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Everybody knows what the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) looks like. We’ve all been there. We cross that page with every search we do. Still, the page can look rather different depending on what you’re searching for. And, which of those results are paid for and which are not – the organic ones? In this post, I’ll explain all the elements of the Google Search Engine Results Page. 

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It depends on what you’re searching for

What the result page looks like largely depends on what you are searching for. If your searching for a product you can buy, Google will show shop results on the SERP. Like in this example, when I was searching ballet shoes for a toddler.

This results page starts with shopping results, the ones with the images on top. To get there, you’ll have to pay Google – note the word ‘sponsored’ in the upper right corner. After those results, the first result is an Ad, another paid result. And then the organic results start.

However, if you’re searching for information about the planet Neptune – because your son is writing an essay about that – you’ll encounter a totally different looking SERP:

These search results do not show any paid or sponsored results. And on the right end, you’ll notice a knowledge graph with lots of information about the planet Neptune.

Read more: ‘What is search intent?’ »

Browsing through the result page

The default page of Google’s search result is a page on which different results appear. Google decides which results fit your search query best. That could be ‘normal’ results, but also news results, shopping results or images. If you’re searching for information, a knowledge graph could turn up. When you’re searching to buy something online, you’ll probably get lots of shopping results on the default result page.

If you want to, you can apply some filters on the search results yourself. You can, for instance, click on ‘images’ if you’re searching for an image. This allows you to browse through images only. You can also choose ‘shopping’, ‘videos’, ‘news’ and ‘more’.

Sponsored results and ads

Google shows both paid results and organic results. It can be pretty hard to notice the difference between the two. The ads usually appear on top of the search results. Sometimes it’s only one ad, but Google can show more ads as well. This depends on how many people search for a certain search term and who wants to pay for it.

You’ll recognize the paid result by the word Ad shown in front of the link to the website. The shopping results in Google are also paid results: a company pays Google to appear in the shopping results. If you want to advertise on Google you should check out Google Adwords.

Organic results

The organic results in Google are all of the results that are not paid for. The organic results that are shown first are the results that fit the search query of the user best, according to Google’s algorithmSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) is aimed to improve the chances to rank in the organic search results. 

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Snippets

The search result page consists of a number of snippets. A snippet is a result Google shows to the user in the search results.  A ‘normal’ snippet usually looks like this:

Google shows the title in blue, the URL in green and a description of what the page is about. You’ll also encounter rich snippets on the SERP. A rich snippet shows extra information between the URL and the description. A rich snippet looks like this:

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

Keep reading: ‘What are rich snippets?’ »

Other elements on the SERPs

Besides snippets, images, videos, news results, shopping results and maps, Google also shows some other elements on the SERPs.

Knowledge Graph box

The Knowledge Graph box appears on the right side of the search results. According to Google, this information is retrieved from many sources, including the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. Information from the Knowledge Graph is used to answer spoken questions in Google Assistant and Google Home voice queries.

Answer boxes

An answer box appears somewhere between the organic search results. It’ll give suggestions for questions that relate to the search query you typed in. If you’re searching for Yoast SEO you’ll encounter this answer box between the organic search results. Clicking on one of the suggestions will give a direct answer to the specific question.

Featured snippets

A featured snippet is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. This featured snippet box is situated above the regular organic search results. Featured snippets often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image.

Read on: ‘How to get featured snippets’ »

Conclusion

Google’s SERPs can show various elements: the search results themselves (so called snippets), a knowledge graph, a featured snippet, an answer box, images, shopping results and more. Depending on the type of query and the data Google finds, some of these elements will show up. You can add data to your page, so Google can show a ‘rich’ snippet, providing more information about your product or recipe, for instance.

You can pay Google to make the snippet of your page end up high on the search results page as an ad. Or, you can optimize your pages for the search engines – and users! – so it will rank high organically. That’s SEO, and that’s what we write about!

Read more: ‘Yoast SEO: how to make your site stand out in the search results’ »

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Off-page SEO is about everything that doesn’t happen directly on your website. Optimizing your website is called on-page SEO and includes things like site structure, content and speed optimizations. Off-page SEO is about, among other things, link building, social media and local SEO. Or in other words, generating traffic to your site and making your business appear like the real deal it is. In this post, we answer the question: What is off-page SEO?

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Creating exposure, trust and brand awareness

When focusing on on-page SEO, you’re doing everything in your power to make your site awesome. You write great content, have a solid site structure and your mobile site loads in just a couple of seconds. All is well in the world. Off-page SEO on the other hand, helps you to bring in those hordes of visitors and potential customers. Both are important pieces of the puzzle.

By writing quality content you can rank in search engines, but by getting a few great, relevant sites to link to that content, you’re increasing the chance that you’ll end up a couple of spots higher. The same goes for building your brand and creating trust. This doesn’t just happen on your site, but mostly off-site. Take reviews for instance, these can make or break your company. You need them, but they most often appear on external sites. These are all factors that contribute to your rankings.

It’s not only important for you to rank high for your search term, but also to create trust and a sense of authority. You must appear to be the best search result, not just in technical and content sense, but also in reality. Popularity, quality and relevance are everything.

A lot of it comes down to link building

Links are the glue that keeps the web together. Search engines use links to determine how valuable a piece of content or a particular site is. Getting quality links has always been a great tactic if you’re serious about ranking. And who isn’t? Recently, however, some people seem to debate the relevance of links. We firmly believe in the importance of links. Of course, you need the good ones. Don’t buy stuff, and keep a close eye on where and how you’re being linked to. We’ve written several guides on how to get quality links for your site and what you shouldn’t do when link building.

Social media helps to a certain extent

By itself social media is not essential for ranking well in search engines. It does, however, give you a unique opportunity to get in touch with customers and potential visitors.

As David Mhim wrote in his epic Ranking your local business post series: “”Being active” on social media isn’t really going to help with your local search visibility. And even if you’re wildly popular on social media, it’s unlikely that popularity will translate directly into higher local search rankings. You should primarily focus your social media efforts on engaging your customers with interesting content, promotions (if relevant), and polls and conversations that will increase their affinity for your brand. You can promote your website to a degree, but generally speaking, improvements in your local rankings will come from other factors.”

Local SEO is also off-page SEO

Local SEO is essential if you’re business is locally oriented. For local businesses, part of the off-page SEO is really in-person SEO. Word-of-mouth marketing plays a big role in getting people to your business. Not just that, happy customers can leave reviews online that Google – and potential other customers – can use to see how well you are doing.

Off-page SEO is an integral part of your SEO strategy

As we’ve shown, off-page SEO supplements on-page SEO. Both go hand in hand. You need to focus on your link building, branding and appearance efforts to make the most of your SEO. You can optimize your site all you want, but if isn’t perceived as a quality destination for people, you won’t do well.

Read more: ‘The ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

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You might have heard us say it before: the UX of your site is essential for SEO. But what is UX? And why is it important for SEO? In this article, we’ll explain what it is and why you shouldn’t forget working on it if you want to rank high in Google. On top of that, we’ll shortly give you some pointers what to do to keep the users of your website satisfied.

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What is UX?

UX stands for User eXperience. As you might have figured, it’s all about how users experience a product. This can be a website, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be an app, a mobile phone or any other physical product that you can use, even a milk carton. It’s all about how someone feels when using a particular product. Does the product make you feel excited or happy, is it a joy to use it, does it help you effortlessly achieve what you’ve been aiming for? Or does it make you feel angry and frustrated because it doesn’t work or look the way you expected it to?

UX or usability?

UX and usability are sometimes used interchangeably. They’re both used to describe the ease with which a visitor uses your site. However, UX is often considered to be broader than usability. If a website is very usable – or user-friendly – visitors will be able to find or do what they want to do easily. A great user experience involves more, for example, esthetics. A website can be straightforward to use, but boring at the same time. This means the usability is excellent, but the user experience could be improved.

For instance, the illustrations of our blog posts are not necessary to improve usability. However, they do contribute to the experience users have on our site. I’m quite a fan of the drawings our illustrators Erwin and Tim make, and I hope they make you think or smile too. These images contribute to the UX of our site. Without them, you would experience our site differently. This way, UX can be part of a branding strategy, even more than usability.

Why is it important for SEO to improve UX?

So why should improving the usability and UX of your site be part of your SEO strategy? Google, or other search engines, want to provide people with the best result for their query. The best result does not only mean the best answer, but it also means the best experience. For instance, if you’re looking for the answer to “What is keyword research?” Google wants to give you the best answer in a swift, pleasant and secure way. So even if you’ve written an excellent answer in a post, but your site is slow, a mess or unsafe, Google won’t consider your post the best answer.

How does Google know?

Google uses different methods to make an educated guess about how users experience your site. They look at elements like site speed – there’s almost nothing more annoying than a page that takes ages to load -, mobile friendliness, the way you’ve structured your content and the internal and external linking of your pages. Lots of high-quality links to your web page probably indicate people had a pleasant experience with it, right?

In addition to that, Google uses user signals to find out how visitors experience your website. User signals are behavioral patterns that Google sees on your site. If a lot of people leave your website very quickly, they might not have found what they’re looking for. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, read Annelieke’s post on bounce rate to find out which. Some other user signals are the time spent on a page and how often people return to your website. If these are high, visitors most likely enjoy your site or find it useful. You can check these kinds of statistics for your site with Google Analytics and other website analysis tools.

It’s no coincidence that the factors mentioned above are important both for UX and SEO. Google tries to grasp how humans experience a website. That’s why a positive experience on your site can contribute to your rankings. If you want to learn more about this, you should read Michiel’s post on the relation between SEO and UX.

Holistic SEO

So should you work on usability and UX just for search engines? I think you can guess our answer to that… At Yoast, we advocate holistically looking at your website. This means you’re striving to make your website excellent in many ways: great content, easy to use – also on mobile – and secure. You’re making these changes for your visitors. In the end, it’s the user who’s going to buy your products, come to your event or subscribe to your newsletter.

Where to start?

As always, start by thinking about the goal of your website and specific pages. What do you want visitors to do on your site? Buy stuff? Read your articles? Donate money to your charity? The purpose of your website or a specific page on your site should be on the top of your mind when you’re making improvements. Your design and content should support this goal. Having a clear goal in mind will also help you prioritize the improvements for your site.

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If you want to improve the UX on your site also try to look at it from a user’s perspective. Ask yourself some questions – and be honest:

Most people develop blind spots if they work a lot on their site. You should, therefore, take the opportunity to ask people to evaluate your site, whenever you can! Try to get people from your target group to test your site and ask them if it worked as they expected it to. You can also use questionnaires on your site, or, if you don’t want to bother them too much, use an exit intent question and ask them why they’re leaving your site. Another option is to do some A/B testing to find out which design of your page gives the best results.

So, no excuses anymore. Start working on the UX of your site, and you might boost your rankings too!

Read more: ‘How to perform an SEO audit. Part 1: Content SEO & UX’ »

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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. A nice tactic to get more traffic to your site is optimizing your content for words people use. However, to really convince people to buy your stuff, subscribe to your newsletter or to come back to your website another time, you should take into account search intent as well. Here, I will tell you what search intent is and how to optimize your articles for search intent.

What is search intent?

Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?

Over the years, Google has become more and more able to determine the search intent of people. And Google wants to rank pages highest that fit the search term as well as the search intent of a specific search query. That’s why it’s essential to make sure your post or page fits the search intent of your audience. 

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

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4 types of search intent

There are a few distinct types of search intent:

Informational intent

First, there is informational intent. Lots of searches on the internet are of people looking for information. Information about the weather, information about educating children, information about SEO. In this case people have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic.

Navigational intent

The second type of search intent is called navigational intent. People with this intent try to get to a specific website. People who search for Facebook are usually on their way to the Facebook website.

Ranking high on a navigational term is only beneficial for your organic traffic if your site is the site people are looking for. A few years ago, Yoast had a Google Analytics plugin and we ranked pretty well for the term Google Analytics. It didn’t drive any traffic to our site though. 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 the transactional intent. Lots of people buy stuff on the internet and browse the web to find the best purchase. People who have the intention to buy are searching with a transactional intent.

Commercial investigation

Some people have the intention to buy in the (near) future, but use the web to do their research. What washing machine would be best? Which SEO plugin is the most helpful? These people also have a transactional intent, but will 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 information about their user intent. If people use words as buy, deal, discount, they are definitely prone to buy something. Also, if people are searching for specific products, they probably want to buy it. If people are searching and use words like information, how to, best way to, you’ll know they’ll have an informational search intent.

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 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 do my dog].

It can be rather 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. If you want to know more about the search intent of your audience, the best 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 more insights in the search intent of 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, if people are searching for information. But lead people to your sales pages if they are prone to buying one of your products.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

 

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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.

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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.

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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’ »

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