Planning your website like your holiday

Planning your website is much like planning your holiday. If you rush into things, your hotel might be crappy, the surroundings without anything to do, and you might even pay way too much for it. Here, I’ll explain the process of planning a (new) website from scratch. And make that process clear by highlighting similarities with planning a holiday.

Your website is like your holiday

We are all working towards our summer holiday, right? Our kids have their last month at school and the office is buzzing with holiday destinations. In the back of our mind, we’re already thinking about that sunny day at the beach this summer. It struck me how many similarities there are between planning your holiday and planning your website. Think about it:

  • Why are you going on a holiday / why are you setting up a website?
  • What is your destination / what is the main goal of your website?
  • Where do you want to go sightseeing / what do you want your visitor to see?
  • Will you be using a travel agency / are you going to build the site yourself?
  • What is your budget?

I’m sure you can come up with more similarities, but let’s focus on these five in this article!

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What are we going to do?

You can set deadlines all you want, if the purpose of your website isn’t clear, you might as well not set up a website. It’s like planning a trip without thinking about what kind of trip you want to make. Spending two weeks on a beach is totally different from hiking from mountain top to mountain top.

There are a couple of things to consider up front for your website:

  • Is your website strictly meant as an online brochure / reference material?
  • Do you want people to get in touch with you?
  • Is your website a place to sell stuff immediately (eCommerce site)?

Obviously, there can be combinations of the three as well.

Online brochure

If your website is solely a brochure, don’t mind optimizing the website, if I can be that blunt. If you only have a website so you can refer people to it for more information, get the cheapest website you can find, make sure to put a logo and some text on it.

Get in touch

If you want people to contact you or subscribe to your newsletter, SEO becomes important. You might want to focus on local SEO, or do some proper keyword research to make sure you have the right, optimized information for your visitor. Make it as easy as possible for a visitor to contact you. For instance show your phone number in all the right places or add forms or email links in spots where you feel you’ve convinced them to send you an email.

eCommerce sites

An eCommerce site obviously needs a different approach. Be sure to think of a proper category structure and start optimizing landing pages for predefined target audiences. Think of great introductory content for your category pages and set up your call-to-action on every page. Optimize your homepage to show all shopping ‘aisles’ of your website.

Of course, you can come up with more variations, like websites that mainly provide information or websites that have a business model based upon ad revenue. It’s very important to think about what kind of website yours is or will be. Keep that goal in mind during the entire process of creating or improving your website.

Where are we going?

This is tougher than you might think. A website owner might have a different idea about of the main purpose of a website. The goal of your website depends on what you want to get out of your website. It is much less about what your website can do for your visitor. Sounds manipulative? Perhaps it is.

Where are we going? Road signs

If you plan a trip, your destination is obviously very important. You can combine hiking and leisure. But if your goal is just sipping Martini at the beach, you don’t want to end up in Nordkapp. For your website, this is pretty similar. A website meant to establish contact with new customers, has a different look and feel than a website that is meant to support existing customers, for instance. The core of your site will be different. Finding that main, core element your website revolves around can be hard. As it can be to pick a destination for your holiday.

Take a look at the website of your local car dealer. He might occasionally sell a used car, but chances are most of his business is about repairs and service and not per se sales. Especially if he’s not selling a specific car brand. His website, however, probably has the newest used cars listed smack in the middle of the homepage.

Ask yourself “what’s my main business” and make sure that that business, or proper content about it, is the centerpiece of your website. The ‘destination’ of your website shouldn’t stop you to plan day trips to other locations, by the way.

Will you be planning day trips?

Where do you want to go sightseeing? In your website, there should be a proper internal link structure to all the other good stuff you want to present your visitor. At Yoast, we often refer to this as setting up cornerstone content. We actually wrote about that a couple of times. Optimizing your website isn’t just about writing that one main page about your main subject, but it is about optimizing all pages related to that as well. If you are selling trips to Paris, just one page about Paris as a whole doesn’t cut it. In addition, you also want a page about the Notre Dame, the Tour Eiffel, and the Sacré-Cœur, just to name a few. These could be your cornerstone pages.

Plan your trips to these pages by adding links on the appropriate pages of your website. By linking these pages from related pages, your cornerstone content becomes easy to find for both Google and your visitor. As you don’t want to take the same day trip every day, don’t keep linking to the same cornerstone content from every page. Instead, decide what cornerstone content is valuable for that specific page. An example: it would make no sense to add a link to Yoast SEO for WordPress here.

What travel agency should you use?

Why would you want to try to book that entire trip yourself? Your main business is probably not building websites or writing content. It is convenient to use a web partner that knows what plugins to use or how to optimize your images for speed or mobile. It simply means you don’t have to worry about any of this, as is the case when using a travel agency. All will be taken care of.

Choosing the right travel agency or web design company / web developer can be hard. There are web design agencies on every street corner. We are often asked which companies we recommend for the implementation of our advice. So we created a list of implementation partners. We know these companies, have seen their work and know and like their approach. If you are looking for a local developer instead, check our friends at Codeable.io, as they have set up a great marketplace for local WordPress developers. Simply post your job there, and get quotes delivered right to your inbox. Pick the travel agency that is best for your voyage.

And what budget should you reserve?

As with your holiday, a new website, or adding improvements to your website, will cost you money. There is no standard for this, but let me assure you that a good developer comes at a certain price. Do you think you can get a new website for $699? You can’t. If your web design agency or web developer charges $699 for a website, start running and never look back. It’s like booking a trip, arriving at your destination only to find out that the trip did not include an accommodation. Where it initially appeared to include that. Paying $699 for a website is a start, but your developer will charge you for every email you send and every feature request you mention. Buy cheap and waste your money.

As mentioned, there is no golden rule for your budget. Just keep in mind that people ‘window shop’ online as much as offline. Your store just has to be appealing, and your door should be open at all times. And yes, that will cost you money, depending on the project you have in mind. Having built and sold my share of websites, I can tell you with 100% certainty that you will talk to your web designer or developer a lot after your website goes live. It will help if you hire a trustworthy, client-friendly company. A company that doesn’t just do what you tell ’em to, but shares knowledge and helps you to lift your online presence to a higher level. Don’t be afraid to pay for that.

Have a nice holiday!

Of course, there is more to planning your holiday. And more to planning your website. As you will understand by now, there is a lot to consider. But as your holiday is meant to relax after working hard for all these weeks, so is a properly planned website. You don’t build a house without thinking about the foundation first, right. Make sure you have answered the questions above first, and then start designing that website. It’ll be a nicer trip that way!

Read more: ‘What’s the mission of your website?’ »

10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post

As with all writing, writing blog posts requires skill. To keep your reader interested, you should think about the structure of your piece and write appealing articles. You can help your readers grasp the core concept of a post by providing headings, subheadings and clear paragraphs. If people understand and like an article, they will be much more inclined to link, share and tweet about it – and that will increase your rankings. So, if you want to improve your rankings, improve your writing skills. Start with these tips on how to write an SEO-friendly blog post!

For some, writing for SEO purposes and writing to attract and captivate your audience could seem like two conflicting goals. I totally disagree. Indeed, if you want a readable and SEO-friendly blog post, the words you want to be found for should be in a very prominent place. But, over-using keywords severely hampers the readability of your text, which you definitely don’t want to do.

This post provides tips on writing blog posts that are both readable and SEO-friendly. These two goals should always go hand in hand.

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Before you start writing: keyword research

Before you can start writing, you have to do keyword research. If you want to dominate the search results, you’ll just have to figure out which words your audience actually searches for. These are the topics you should write about and the words you should use in your text.

Now, let’s start with some writing tips!

Key writing tips for good blog posts

Above all, your blog post has to be a good piece of writing! When starting a new blog post, many bloggers just start writing, typing whatever comes into their heads. While this may work for some people who have natural writing talents, others may need some help. Personally, I always follow these ‘rules’ when blogging.

1. Think before you write!

Think carefully about the message of your piece. What do you want to tell your readers or which central question do you want to answer? What’s the purpose of your article? And what do you want your readers to do at the end of the page? Write down the answers to these questions before you begin.

2. Devise a structure for your blog post

Start your post by creating a clear structure. Every post should have:

  • some sort of introduction (in which you introduce your topic);
  • a body (in which the main message is written);
  • a conclusion (which should summarize the most important ideas or draw a conclusion).

Write down what you want to say in all three sections. You now have a kind of summary of your post. Now the real writing can begin.

3. Use paragraphs

Everybody uses paragraphs, but not everybody uses them well. Don’t start each new sentence on a new line, just because it looks nice. There should be a logical reason for starting a new paragraph. Each paragraph should have its own idea or subject. Ask yourself what the main idea of each paragraph is. You should be able to summarize that main idea in only one sentence. If you need more sentences, you simply need to use more paragraphs.

4. Use headings

Headings structure the whole page, so use them. They’re important not just for readability, but for SEO as well. Headings also help Google to grasp the main topics of a long post and therefore can help in your ranking. If you want people to find their way through your articles, you should use subheadings to lead people, help them scan your page, and clarify the structure of your articles. Make sure you use your keywords in some of the subheadings, but not in each and every one of them, as it will make the text clunky and unnatural, which will put people off reading further.

5. Use signal words

Signal words help people to scan through your text and grasp the main ideas. Let’s say, for example, that there are three reasons for people to buy your product. You should use signal words like: ‘first of all’; ‘secondly’ and ‘finally’. Also, words like ‘nevertheless’, ‘surely’ and ‘indeed’ give a clear signal to your readers. Readers will instantly get that a conclusion will follow after words like ‘consequently’, ’so’ or ‘for this reason’. Signal words are therefore very important to add structure to your text.

6. Let other people read your post

Before publishing your post, let someone else read it first. Ask them whether they understand the main concept of your post and invite them to correct any typos and grammatical errors.

7. Optimize the length of your article

Make sure your articles have a minimum of 300 words. Google likes long articles, however, if your article is too long – and not so easy to read – it might scare users away. Only try writing long articles when you know you’re a skilled writer. Check out this article if you want to know: “how long should my article be“. And don’t forget to use your focus keyphrase now and then!

8. Link to previous content

If you’ve already written content on the same topic as your current post, don’t forget to link these posts together. It will make your post stronger because you show some authority on the subject. As well as that, your link structure is also important for your Google rank. And of course, readers may be interested in reading these related posts too. If you want to read more about this you should read about internal linking for SEO.

9. Add content regularly

Regularly adding new blog posts to your website tells Google that your website is alive. If it’s not an active website, Google will crawl it less often, and this might negatively affect your rankings. But don’t just post for the sake of posting. Make sure you post high quality content: informative, well-written articles that fit people’s search intent.

10. Use our Yoast SEO plugin

The analysis tool in our Yoast SEO plugin helps you write SEO-friendly and readable blog posts. Start by choosing your focus keyword because this is the most important search term you want people to find this particular page for. Then it runs all kinds of checks to see whether your post is optimized well:

  • Our plugin checks your post to see whether you have used the keyphrase in the right places, like your copy, title, meta description, alt text and URL. Yoast SEO Premium will also recognize different word forms of your keyphrase.
  • It checks the readability of your text: Are your sentences or paragraphs too long? Do you use transition words?
  • It checks for internal and external links and images in the article. Yoast SEO Premium even provides suggestions for links to related articles on your site.
  • It calculates how often you use your keyphrase throughout your text: not enough or too often? In Premium it also checks if you’ve distributed your keyphrase or its synonyms well.
  • It also checks if other pages on your website use the same focus keyword, to prevent you from competing with yourself.

If you write a relatively SEO-friendly blog post (based on the aspects discussed above) the plugin will indicate this with a green bullet. Pages with green bullets will help you improve the ranking of the pages on your website.

Note that not every dot has to be green for the overall SEO score to be “good”. For instance, these are the results of this post, which does have a “good” score:

the seo analysis in yoast seo

If you want to know how to use the SEO and readability analysis of Yoast SEO exactly, read this post on how to use Yoast SEO well.

Conclusion

The days when a few SEO tricks were enough to get your website to rank well in Google are long gone. Nowadays, quality content is king. And good content also leads to more links, shares, tweets and return visitors to your website. Of course, there are always other things you can do to maximize the SEO friendliness of your post, but most importantly, just write very, very good posts!

Read on: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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