How to set up a cornerstone content strategy with Yoast SEO

On your site, you’ll probably have a few articles that are most dear to your heart. Articles you desperately want people to read. Articles you want people to find with Google. At Yoast, we call these articles your cornerstone articles. How does the Yoast SEO plugin help you set up a cornerstone content strategy? I’ll tell you all about that in this blog post.

What is cornerstone content?

Cornerstone content consists of those articles that you’re most proud of. The articles that reflect the mission of your company perfectly, and the ones you definitely want to rank well. In general, cornerstone articles are lengthy, and they tend to be informative.

Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to using a cornerstone content strategy. It is worth your time, though! Think about the posts or pages on your site. Which are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? Choose these to be your cornerstone content.

Read more: What type of content should cornerstone content be? »

What does Yoast SEO do with cornerstone content?

There are three aspects to a successful cornerstone content approach:

  • Cornerstone content should be lengthy, well-written and well-optimized.
  • Cornerstone articles should have a prominent place in your site’s structure.
  • You should keep your cornerstones fresh and up to date.

Yoast SEO will help you take care of all of these things!

1. Write awesome articles

The SEO and readability analysis in Yoast SEO will give you feedback on your writing. If you consider a post to be one of your cornerstone content articles, you should toggle the switch to ‘on’ in the ‘cornerstone content’ tab, underneath the ‘focus keyphrase’ tab.

Enabling the cornerstone analysis in Yoast SEO

Indicating that an article is cornerstone content, will make the SEO analysis and the readability analysis a bit more strict. For example, we propose to write at least 300 words for a normal post. If a post is cornerstone content, we urge you to write at least 900 words.

Our SEO analysis will help you optimize your blog post for the search engines. For cornerstone content, you have to go the extra mile. Make sure you use your focus keyphrase enough, mention it in a few headings, and optimize your images. Readability is equally important, though. Our readability analysis helps you to, for instance, use enough headings and to write in short, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs.

Keep reading: How our cornerstone analysis helps you create your best articles »

2. Incorporate cornerstone content in your site structure

You have to link to your cornerstone articles to make them rank high in the search engines. By linking to your favorite articles often, you’ll tell Google that these are the ones that are most important. Think of it as a map: big cities have considerably more roads leading towards them than small towns. Those cities are your cornerstones. They should receive most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. If you build your site structure like this, you won’t be competing with your own content for a place in the search engines.

Yoast SEO has two useful features to help you link to your cornerstone content articles.

Internal linking tool

If you use our premium plugin, you can use our internal linking tool. This tool will make linking suggestions for other posts based on the words you’re using in your post. The posts you’ve marked as cornerstone content articles – as described previously – will always appear on top of our list of suggestions. That way, whenever you’re writing about a specific topic, you’ll find the right cornerstone article to link to. Read more about how to use the Yoast SEO internal linking tool.

Using our internal linking tool will remind you to link to your cornerstones whenever you’re writing a new post. As a result, your cornerstones will stay on top in your linking structure. And that’s what they need to start ranking.

Text link counter

The text link counter allows you to see all the internal links you’ve put in a post and all internal links to a post from your other pages. This tool provides you with a clear overview of the distribution of your internal links. Make sure to check (and keep checking) if your cornerstone articles receive enough internal links!

text links counter

3. Keep your cornerstones up to date

Regularly updating your cornerstone content is important for your cornerstone strategy. After all, your cornerstones should be timeless, and therefore, always contain the latest insights. If you have Yoast SEO Premium installed, you’ll have an additional feature to help you keep your cornerstones up to date. The stale cornerstone content filter allows you to see at a glance which of your cornerstones need updating. It works in both your post overview, and your pages overview. Neat, right?

Of course, at Yoast, we practice what we preach, so you’ll find no stale content here ;-)

Cornerstone content strategy made simple with Yoast SEO

Your cornerstone content strategy consists of several elements. Your cornerstone content articles should be informative, nice to read and well-optimized. In addition to that, they should have a prominent place in your site’s structure. Yoast SEO helps you achieve both these things. And last but not least, the Premium plugin helps you keep your cornerstones fresh and up to date. Don’t skimp on optimizing your cornerstones: they deserve that little bit of extra attention!

Read on: Why you should buy Yoast SEO Premium »

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Using storytelling on product pages

Sue and John have a little baby. His name is Jack. Jack is 10 weeks old and cries a lot. Sue and John don’t know how to stop Jack’s crying. They get very nervous of his crying, the sleep poorly, they are agitated, tired and scared. One day, a good friend gives them a present. It is a baby carrier and it’s supposed to help calm their baby. John decides to give the baby carrier a try. Jack loves the carrier. He instantly relaxes, stops crying and falls asleep. From that moment on, Sue and John carried Jack in their baby carrier all day long.

Storytelling is a great strategy to use on your product pages. But why is storytelling such an effective tool to use on your product pages? And how could you use storytelling on your own e-commerce site yourself? In this blog post, I’ll explain why storytelling is effective on product and sales pages. I will also share some tips on how you could use storytelling on your product pages.

You’ll probably use storytelling without knowing it

Most of you will already be using storytelling on their product pages. You just don’t realize it yet. It’s actually rather hard to write product pages without telling a story. In your copy, you’ll probably already are describing why your product is so very awesome. Most of you will use examples to do that. Examples are stories.

You’ll probably have some reviews or testimonials on your site as well. These are stories too. Maybe you did not think about these things as stories, but that’s what they are. Treating examples, cases, reviews, and testimonials as little stories will help you improve your product pages for sure. Let’s look at some tips on how to effectively use storytelling on your product pages.

Why is storytelling such an effective strategy to use on product pages?

Show, don’t tell…

Storytelling is effective in product pages because it allows you to show people why your product is so very awesome, instead of just telling them that. I could tell you all about our fantastic SEO courses (they truly are amazing), but it would be much more convincing if I showed you why they are amazing.

A story about a client that did not understand SEO at first and made some major improvements (and a lot of money) would be much more convincing, than me telling you about it. A baby carrier company could tell you about their product and how it soothes and relaxes babies, but the story of baby Jack from the intro of this post is probably more convincing.

Focus on the problem instead of the product

Stories need a problem and focussing on the problem usually results in great sales copy. Remember the four elements of a good story I wrote about in my previous post? For a good story, you’ll need a character, a problem, action, and a solution. If you use stories on your product pages, you’ll automatically shift away from your product to the problem and the solution your product offers. Your sales copy will benefit from that!

How to use storytelling on product pages?

Stories are a great way to convince people to buy your product. Let’s look at three simple ways to use storytelling on your product pages.

Reviews and testimonials are little stories

Every review, every testimonial is a little story. You probably know that testimonials increase trust. Real customers, share real experiences. Those experiences increase trust.  

Treating testimonials and reviews as stories will allow you to make them more powerful! A good story requires a character, a problem, action, and a solution. If you ask people to write testimonials, ask them to use the four elements as well. That way, testimonials will read as little stories.

Ask people to tell a little bit about themselves. Make them human; make sure that people can relate to this person. A good story also needs a problem. Ask people to talk about their situation before using your product. Ask them why they purchased your product (that’s the action in the story) and how their situation changed after they started using your product (the solution).

Collect user stories

Collect success stories! You can ask people to write testimonials, but you can also ask for input and write the stories yourself.

Ask your customers to share their experiences with your products. Ask them how the product improved their lives. Use that feedback of your customers to write little stories. Add photos and details of these persons to show your audience that these are real people. Pictures or even video of people actually using your product would be even more impressive. Your customers’ success stories are a great way to show new users why your product is so very awesome.

The introduction of this blog post is an example of a short user story. Sue and John had a problem: Jack, their baby, wouldn’t stop crying. They tried a product: the baby carrier, and it solved their problem.

Write example stories

Explaining what your product does can be rather challenging. Often, this type of content can be a bit dry. Explaining all the features of the Yoast SEO plugin does not necessarily make for compelling copy. Using an example story could clarify a lot.

In an example story you could, for instance, introduce a persona that is facing a problem. Perhaps the persona wants to get more traffic to her site but does not know where to start. In the story, you’ll explain how your product solved the problem of the persona in your story. We could highlight our most important features of Yoast SEO in the story and show a remarkable increase in traffic after the persona started using these features.

Conclusion on storytelling and product pages

Stories are a great way to convince people to buy a product. Using stories will automatically shift the focus of your copy away from your product to the problem and your audience. That’s a good thing; it’ll make your sales copy much more engaging!

Stories are particularly powerful if people can relate to the characters in your stories. Always make sure your stories on your product pages are about real people. Add details to make the stories more real and lively. That’ll make it easier for people to relate to the characters in your stories. Add photos and videos to make the stories even more real.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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How to use storytelling in a blog post

People like reading stories. Stories are a great way to captivate your audience. But how do you use stories in a blog post? And, how do you come up with ideas? In a previous post, I wrote about why you should use storytelling. In this post, I’ll give you 6 tips on how to start using storytelling in your blog posts.

But first, let’s start with a little story: 

Once upon a time, there was this young woman. Her name was Mary. Mary was a copywriter. She wrote wonderful content for travel agencies and several magazines. Mary used a lot of storytelling in her work. She was very good at it. But last week, her inspiration was terribly low. She was a bit ill. Nevertheless, her deadlines were approaching. Mary felt stressed. To meet her deadlines, she added some stories from her own experience to one of her articles. She was afraid her editor would frown upon that, but he actually loved it. And, so did her readers.

Tip 1: Use stories as examples

If you do not know how to start with storytelling, then start using stories as examples. Of course, you don’t have to start every story with ‘once upon a time’. You can use short anecdotes or stories from your readers to make a blog post more entertaining. Examples make your blog post lively and nice to read.

Tip 2: Get inspiration from your own world

Coming up with ideas for stories can be difficult. So, use the world around you for inspiration. A little talk with a neighbor, a funny thing your daughter did, something that happened during your lunch break: these are all little stories. Lots of the stories I use in my posts come from my own experiences. Mary, in the story I wrote at the beginning of this post, is actually me. The story about Wende, from my previous post about storytelling, really happened. Wende is my daughter. You don’t need to do extensive research for every story. Stories are everywhere.

Tip 3: Make sure your story aligns with the message of your post

If you use a story in your blog post, you need to make sure that the story aligns with the message of your post. Stories are fun and nice to read, but they only become powerful if they actually mean something. Every story has a meaning, something you want people to learn from that specific story. The meaning of the story should align with the message of your post.

The story about Mary I used in this post is about someone who is using storytelling. This post is about storytelling. Mary has a hard time coming up with ideas for a story. She decides to get inspiration from her own world and writes a personal story, which turns out nicely. In this post, I’m advising you to get inspiration from your own world and make sure to add a personal touch to a story. The story about Mary aligns with the message of this post.

Tip 4: Use the 4 elements of storytelling

A good story needs 4 elements: a character, a problem, an action, and a solution. If you write a story, try to put these four elements in it. You’ll probably do that without giving it much thought. Let’s look at the four elements of storytelling in a bit more detail:

You need to introduce a character. In my story that’s Mary. A main character that is perfectly happy does not make for a good story. The character should aspire to something or solve something. The character needs a problem. Mary’s problem was her lack of inspiration. The third thing you need is action. A story requires the main character to do something to solve the problem. Mary took a chance and added some personal stories to her copywriting. The last thing in a story is a solution. The solution is the end of the story. The problem or conflict should be solved. The readers liked her personal stories; Mary was successful.

Tip 5: Make it personal and relatable

Try to make your stories personal. Write a story about someone people can relate to. People like people. Stories are more powerful if people are able to emotionally relate to the main character. Add details, make your character into someone readers understand and relate to.

Tip 6: Add images

My last tip for powerful storytelling is to add images to your stories. If you tell a story about a person who is using your product, add a picture of this person. That’ll make the person easier to relate to. Add an illustration to your story. Illustrations will make the story easier to grasp. It will make your message more clear. And, it will make it more fun.

Conclusion on how to use storytelling

Storytelling doesn’t have to be a ‘grand thing’. There are many ways to implement it. Draw inspiration from your own experiences and write stories that fit the message of your post well. Using interviews is also a good way of telling a story. You’ll get a personal story through an interview. And if you would like to make your blog a little more personal or more fun, try to use anecdotes. Little stories. Things that happened to you. These little anecdotes, examples, personal experiences will just add that personal touch to your blog that makes it so much more enjoyable to read.

In the next post in this series about storytelling, I’ll give tips on how to use storytelling on an eCommerce website.

Read more: Blogging: the Ultimate guide »


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Does readability rank? On ease of reading and SEO

Is it worth your while making your text a pleasant read? Will it lead to higher rankings and more traffic? Is readability a ‘ranking factor’? At Yoast, we’re convinced that writing in plain and understandable language can get you more visitors. We’ve even developed a tool to help people write readable text. Here, we’ll explain why search engines love easy to understand copy, and we’ll give tips on creating it.

Well-written copy improves UX

At the risk of stating the obvious: unintelligible copy makes for bad user experience. Nobody likes to read something that’s incomprehensible, boring or stuffed with keywords. All your web copy should, therefore, be aimed and focused on your audience, giving them the information they need, a solution to their problem, or an answer to their question.

First and foremost, you should write great copy for your visitors. This fits in nicely with our vision of holistic SEO. If you write text people don’t understand, you won’t help people find what they need. What’s more, you’ll end up with unsatisfied visitors, that’ll probably bounce back to Google when they hit your site. Google analyses user signals like that to determine how visitors experience your site.

Search engines mimic humans

There used to be a time when stuffing keywords in your copy would work: if you’d just mention your keywords enough times in your text, Google would rank it high for those keywords. Those times are long gone.

Fortunately, Google got much better at recognizing quality content. For instance, after the Hummingbird update, Google started recognizing synonyms. It also understands which words, entities, and content are related to each other. In addition to that, search engines became better at predicting what people want to read: from the keywords in your query they can make an estimated guess on your search intent. You can learn how to semantically link entities to your content.

Overall, the algorithm of Google is trying to mimic a human. It tries to read text like a human being. As Google becomes more capable of understanding and scanning texts in a human-like way, the demands on the readability of text also rise.

Readability is important for voice search

The number of people using voice search is growing, so Google — and other search engines — are focused on voice. They present their results in a voice-like manner; they rank their results in a voice-like manner.

People searching for information with voice search could end up listening to a relatively long piece of information. Imagine a long paragraph consisting of meandering sentences and containing lots of difficult words, that’s read out loud. The voice result would become impossible to understand. Google wouldn’t want to use an answer like that. Neither in voice nor in normal results.

Google prefers understandable content because voice search is getting bigger. Whether it will be huge or not, doesn’t matter for the importance of understandable, readable content. Google simply dictates the search results and the algorithm. We just have to go with it. And in this case, it’s a good thing. Writing readable content is a blessing for the reader.

Read more: How to prepare for voice search »

What makes a text easy to read?

How do people read web copy? Visitors scan through texts, read subheadings and the first sentences of paragraphs. They look for transition words in order to quickly abstract what the main conclusion of an article will be.

All the things humans do while reading text are things Google will do. That means that the structure of your text, the way you write your paragraphs, will become increasingly important. Core sentences — the first sentence of every paragraph — will be crucial. Having a clear and logical structure in your text will be invaluable.

Tips to keep your text readable

How to create easy reads? Before you start writing your text, think about the structure. What are you going to tell your audience and in what order? Is that a logical order of topics? Will your audience be able to follow your arguments, your examples, your message? Maybe you should try writing content with the inverted pyramid style?

Read more: Setting up a text structure »

Write short rather than lengthy sentences, as lengthy sentences are much harder to process. Try to avoid or to limit the number of difficult words in a text. Try not to use complicated sentences and try to avoid the use of passive voice.

Keep reading: 5 SEO copywriting mistakes you should avoid »

Make sure to write in an appealing style. That can be really hard; not everyone has a talent for creative writing. Make sure to mix it up a little! Try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Avoid starting sentences with the same word.

Read on: 5 tips to write a readable blog post »

We know writing readable copy is hard. That’s why we developed a readability analysis in Yoast SEO. It checks, for instance, if your sentences aren’t too long, if you don’t use passive voice too often, and if the length of your paragraphs is OK. We’ll give you tips for improvement and you can even see which sentences need a second look. We’re continuously tweaking it, adding new checks and getting it translated in as many different languages as possible. It’s available for free in the Yoast SEO plugin.

One last tip: read it out loud!

Google’s Gary Illyes once tweeted that you should read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read nicely or sounds strange, it probably won’t rank either.

Let’s be clear: your rankings won’t immediately soar if you improve the readability of your texts. But, writing a readable blog post is an essential part of every SEO strategy. If you want your readers to read your entire blog post, you should make sure your copy is easy to read. Posts that are nice to read will definitely result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. So in the long run: readability ranks.

Keep on reading: SEO copywriting: the complete guide »

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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.

Master SEO copywriting; write content that ranks! In our SEO copywriting training we teach you the skills you need to create copy that visitors and search engines love!

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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