“Yoast SEO hates my writing style!”

This is just one of the many misconceptions about the Yoast SEO readability feedback we’re happy to set straight. We’ve often been telling you to go chase those green bullets – or green lights as some are calling them. The bullets are a key part of the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast SEO bullets serve to give intuitive feedback on your text and gamify the Yoast SEO experience.

Trying to get all green bullets can be addictive, but it isn’t necessarily the best way of creating great copy. Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of misconceptions about the green bullets on social media and in our support channels. Let’s discuss some of them to get a feel for how to approach the bullets feedback.

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

1. I have some red and orange bullets, so I will never rank!

Generally, the more green bullets, the more SEO fit your text is, as we’ve told you in other posts on this site. But not every bullet has to be green. The bullets indicate strengths and weaknesses in your text. They can help you easily identify some elements you could improve on. Don’t take them as gospel. They are tools, not commandments.

Also, and this is most important: never try to cheat the game by tinkering with your text until your red and amber bullets turn green. Use the plugin feedback to your advantage, and use common sense to determine whether you can make improvements to your text. Therefore, we always advise you to write the text first, and only check the feedback once you feel the text is finished.

2. All my bullets are green, but I still don’t rank!

It goes the other way around as well: if all your bullets are green, that doesn’t mean you’ll rank. First of all, green bullets don’t equal a great text. If your text has great readability but doesn’t have good information, you won’t be the best result. Moreover, if you base your text too much on the bullets’ feedback, your text may actually even be worse than it may have been otherwise.

Don’t become a slave of the green bullet. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve written a great text but your competition is stiff and all of them have also written great texts. Or you may have SEO issues in other areas.

3. Every post should be optimized!

Not all posts have to be optimized. You have to consider whether your post will be part of your SEO strategy. Some posts will suffer if you optimize them. Others, like announcements, don’t make sense to optimize for. Consider whether your post fits your SEO strategy and make a conscious decision of whether to optimize it.

4. If I paste Hemingway into the readability analysis, all I see is red and orange, so you can’t trust the Yoast SEO feedback!

The Yoast SEO readability analysis is aimed at optimizing for online content. Hemingway (or Shakespeare or any other great literary artist, for that matter) wasn’t looking to sell pens, or maintain a mom blog, or anything like that. Most online authors are not trying to write the Great American Novel, and they shouldn’t. They should write readable online content. That’s the goal, so that’s what the plugin measures.

5. Yoast SEO hates my writing style!

We don’t hate your writing style, so the Yoast SEO plugin doesn’t either. It merely provides you with readability feedback. Your writing style may not fit the guidelines for good SEO copy that is easy to understand.

Research has shown that overusing passive voice leads to worse readability. It has also shown that using too many long sentences makes your text difficult to read. This is especially important when it comes to online copy. We don’t think that’s a question of style. You can decide for yourself whether you agree. If you don’t, ignore the feedback at your own risk!

6. Yoast SEO wants me to dumb down my text!

We want your text to be as clear as possible. And you should aim to write as clearly as possible. Most of you are trying to reach a broad audience. Many of you are trying to reach non-native speakers. Using simple vocab and short sentences does not equal dumbing down your text. It’s the other way around: it opens your copy up to a broader audience. This is especially important when writing online copy.

The longer it takes for your audience to grasp what you are trying to say, the bigger the chances of them bouncing. Attention spans are short, so cater to them. And of course, sometimes you have to use jargon in a technical text. But generally, you should keep things simple. Writing clearly and concisely is an art, not a shortcoming.

Read more: Readability ranks! »

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Why you should actively avoid the passive voice

Are you aware of the risks of overusing the passive voice in your writing? In the readability analysis in our Yoast SEO plugin, we recommend using the passive voice in a maximum of 10% of your sentences. But why? In this post, I will discuss a couple of key questions about the passive voice. I’ll start by explaining what it is. Then, I’ll explain why it is usually best to avoid using the passive voice in your writing. To cap it off, I’ll describe some situations in which using the passive voice makes perfect sense. 

Our completely overhauled SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write copy that ranks. And you’ll get an exclusive 14% discount to boot, only in this first week! So don’t wait too long!

What is the passive voice?

The passive voice is a grammatical construction. The easiest way to explain the passive voice is by contrasting it with the active voice. The active voice is the standard English sentence structure. The simplest possible sentences feature an actor (the subject), who does (the verb) something to either a person, animal or thing (the receiver).

WordMomhuggedme
Semantic functionactordirect verb receiver

In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around. The receiver becomes the grammatical subject. Note that the meaning of the sentence stays exactly the same. The only difference is the word order.

WordIwas huggedby mom
Semantic functionreceiverdirect verbactor

In some passive sentences, you can omit the actor. ‘I was hugged’, for example, is a perfectly sensible passive sentence, although it provides less information.

Why should I avoid the passive voice?

Let’s cut to the chase: using the passive voice almost always makes your writing more distant and your message less clear. There are two main reasons for this.

Wordy

First of all, the passive voice is wordy. The passive alternative to an active sentence is simply longer. Consider these two sentences:

1. The passive voice almost always makes your message less clear.

2. Your message is almost always made less clear by using the passive voice.

You convey the same message by using the passive but add three words. When overusing the passive voice in your text, this can really add up.

Sentence structure

In addition, the passive voice uses a sentence structure which requires more cognitive effort. Your reader will spend valuable working memory on making sense of the sentence. This decreases the likelihood of you getting your message across.

Let’s explore why the passive voice demands more effort. As I told you before, the basic active sentence structure is quite consistent and logical in English. The passive voice turns this all the way around. You first read what was affected. Then you read what happened to it. Lastly, you learn how it was affected. You discover who or what was responsible only at the very end. This sequence differs from how we usually make sense of events.

Moreover, we expect the actor to be in the subject position, so we are slightly disoriented. This means constructing an image of what happens takes a tiny moment longer. Again, these moments can easily add up if you overuse the passive voice.

In the example I gave, there is no added benefit to using the passive: the active sentence conveys the same information. Whenever you use passive voice, always consider whether a better, active alternative is available.

What are the exceptions?

Sometimes, using the passive voice can be the only logical way to word a sentence. Mostly, this occurs when the actor is unknown or irrelevant. Let’s look at an example I used in the first paragraph of this very text:

In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around.

There is no identifiable actor here, nor would he or she be relevant. After all, we’re talking about a general action here, not a specific one. Any alternative active sentence would be less clear and concise than the passive sentence I wrote, so it’s the best option available.

Alternatively, you may want to use a passive sentence to focus on the receiver. This works when the object is more central to the topic than the actor:

J.F. Kennedy was killed in 1963 in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

This means that we’re not here to tell you to avoid the passive voice like the plague. If it beats the active alternative, by all means: use it! Rules about style are hardly ever set in stone, so don’t make the mistake of following the rule of thumb too strictly. Do what seems right to you and what makes your text flow nicely. A maximum of 10% generally suffices. You should be able to achieve numbers even lower than that by following our advice.

Conclusion

Using the passive voice is generally a bad idea. After writing your text, scan it for passive voice constructions. Always ask yourself: is a better, active alternative available? If there is, use it. If not, use the passive voice.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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All-new and improved: the SEO copywriting training!

As of today, you can get your hands on a completely overhauled version of the SEO copywriting training. We’re very proud to present a much more hands-on training, which will really take you by the hand, and guide you through every step of writing an SEO-friendly blog post. It’s chock-full of real-life examples and practical exercises, so you can get the skills and confidence to write excellent content yourself!

You can get the course for $129, but only in the first week, so don’t wait too long!

Why should I be excited about the new SEO copywriting training?

Good writing is essential for SEO. If your site is full of copy that your visitors want to read, they’ll enjoy your site and they’ll want to come back. And helping search engines understand your text is crucial for your rankings as well. That’s why, in this course, we’ll introduce you to the wonderful world of SEO copywriting. We’ve created a new course that takes you by the hand, and walks you through the process of writing a blog post that is optimized for ranking in the search engines.

In each module, experienced copywriters provide you with theory, best practices, and tips. All of this is accompanied by lots of practical learning aids: examples, exercises, screencasts, and assignments. After doing the assignments, you’ll have your own, ready-to-publish blog post. If you follow this hands-on course, you’ll master the art of copywriting before you know it!

What will I learn?

We’ll start this course by explaining how Google understands text and what good SEO copy looks like. Then, we’ll cover the essential first step of SEO copywriting: picking the keyphrases your text should rank for in Google. In the last three modules, we’ll explore the three phases of a solid writing process:

1. Preparing your text

It’s important to prepare your text thoroughly. We’ll teach you how to consider your message, audience, angle, and purpose to tailor your copy to your audience.

2. Writing your text

The fun part: the actual writing! You’ll learn why readability is so important and how to write texts that are a breeze to read. Paragraphs, transition words, subheadings – these terms will no longer hold secrets for you.

3. Editing your text

A big part of the actual work lies in editing your text. In this module, we’ll teach you how to craft your text to capture the hearts of your visitors and the search engines. You’ll learn how to rewrite passive sentences and how to avoid spelling and grammar errors.

Get personal feedback on your blog post

The assignments in this course offer you a step-by-step template to write the optimal SEO blog post. When you’ve completed your blog post, you may want to confirm you’re on the right track. If so, you can look to our experts for advice. If you choose the feedback package, a Yoast expert will check your blog post and provide feedback on your copy. We’ll point out missed opportunities and give you ideas to improve your text!

Start writing copy that ranks before the offer expires!

The SEO copywriting training teaches you how to write awesome copy that ranks, so you’ll attract more visitors. And like every other Yoast Academy training course, the SEO copywriting training is online and on-demand. This means you can do this course whenever you want, wherever you want. It’s all up to you!

You can get the course by clicking the button below. But don’t wait too long: it’s temporarily discounted at $129, so get it before the offer expires! If you have a Yoast training subscription, the new course will automatically be added to your account.

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Why storytelling is good for SEO

Once upon a time, there was this woman – let’s call her Mia – and she wanted to write beautiful stories for her blog. Mia noticed she was not getting much traffic from Google, while other bloggers seemed to attract a lot of visitors. She wondered what she was doing wrong. One day, at a blogging conference Mia heard about a wonderful thing called SEO. She learned that she should use the words her audience was using, she learned she needed to think about the words she wanted to be found for. And she needed to use those exact words. It was a game changer for Mia. After applying these tips, Mia attracted much more traffic to her blog. Eventually, she even started making money with her blog. Mia blogged happily ever after.  

Stories are nice to read. Storytelling is a great tactic. But what does it have to do with SEO? Is it a good idea to use storytelling if your main goal is to rank for a specific term? In this blog post, the fourth in a series about storytelling, I am going to explain how storytelling can be an effective SEO tactic.

Storytelling and SEO may seem counterintuitive

An important part of SEO is focused on using the right words – the words you want to be found for- in your text. But if you use storytelling, if you use metaphors.  If you tell a story by making an example, chances are that you are not using your focus keyphrase then.

At the beginning of the post you are reading right now, I shared a little story about Mia. In that story, I am not using my focus keyphrase – the words I want to rank with, with this particular post. I want to rank with ‘storytelling SEO’. But in the entire first paragraph, the word ‘storytelling’ does not pop up. That, in itself, is not beneficial for your SEO. The Yoast SEO plugin will definitely suggest using the focus keyword in your first paragraph. So, you’ll have one bullet that’ll not turn green. That’s okay. It is totally okay to have a paragraph – or two – that does not contain the focus keyphrase.

So why is storytelling a good SEO tactic?

Storytelling is good for SEO because it will make your post nice to read. And, creating content that people like is exactly what Google wants. If you’re writing blog posts people enjoy reading, you’ll increase your chances to rank high in Google. In my previous post about storytelling, I’ve explained how you can use storytelling in a blog post.

If people like your content, you’ll also have a higher chance that people will remain on your website. Your time on page increases and your bounce rate will decrease. These factors will help tremendously with the ranking of your post.

Next to making your blog post more fun to read, storytelling is beneficial for SEO for another reason. If people like your post, they’ll be more likely to engage with it. They’ll leave a comment; they’ll share it on their social platforms. That’ll already increase traffic to your post. But these things will also increase the likelihood Google will rank a post. Google loves content that is written with people in mind. Google will notice that people like to read your text and that will result in higher rankings in the long run.

Conclusion

Use little stories as metaphors and examples. It’ll make your content so much nicer to read. Don’t worry about having an orange or red bullet. As long as your overall bullet in Yoast SEO is green, it’ll work out fine. Stories are beneficial for your SEO, more beneficial than a perfect keyword density or keyword distribution. Storytelling will allow you to write content that is so good that people will want to stay on your page. That’s very, very good for SEO!

Read more: Using storytelling op product pages »

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What is keyword stemming?

Google can read and analyze texts very well. Google understands that ‘walk’, walking’, ‘walked’, ‘walks’ all boils down to the same thing. Also, Google knows that ‘baby’ is basically the same thing as babies. Optimizing your text for an exact match keyword isn’t a very smart thing to do. That’s why we introduced word form recognition in Yoast SEO Premium. You can now optimize your post and we’ll analyze the different word forms like walk, walks and walking. For longer tail keywords, we also recognize the words if you decide to use them in a different word order.

So, at Yoast, we talk about word forms, sometimes also about morphology recognition. At the same time, I hear the linguists at Yoast talking about keyword stemming too. And I noticed some SEOs talked about it as well. But what is keyword stemming? How does stemming relate to morphology recognition? And what does it have to do with SEO? I’ll explain all about it in this post.

What is stemming?

Stemming or keyword stemming refers to Google’s ability to understand different word forms of a specific search query. It is called stemming because it comes from the word stem, base or root form. If you use the word ‘buy’ in a sentence, a stemming algorithm would recognize the words ‘buys’, ‘buying’ and ‘bought’ as variations of the word ‘buy’ as well. Some SEOs also differ between stemming and lemmatization.

Google has used stemming in its algorithms for a long time now. The first blog posts about it from SEO experts like Rand Fishkin and Bill Slawski go as far back as 10 years ago. For languages other than English, Google began recognizing word forms much later. In recent years, Google’s algorithm became even more advanced, making exact match keyword optimization more and more outdated.

If you want to optimize your text for the term ballet shoes, for example, you should be able to use the term ballet shoe as well. Google understands that ballet shoes and ballet shoe are basically the same thing. Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin recognizes both word forms as well (at least in English and, since Yoast SEO 10.1, in German).

Stemming and word forms

If people are talking about keyword stemming or a stemming algorithm, they mean that the algorithm is able to recognize different word forms of a certain keyword. That’s exactly what the word forms functionality in Yoast SEO does. We do not automatically detect synonyms, but we do allow you to enter synonyms and we’ll take them into account in our SEO analysis.

Maybe we should have called our word forms functionality stemming. But it’s a difficult word to explain to people. So, that’s why we’ll stick with word forms.

Stemming and SEO

Google has become very smart. It understands texts. It understands context. In order to stand a chance in the search engines, you need to write awesome texts that show your authority on a certain subject. Content stuffed with keywords does not rank anymore. Google hates that, users hate that.

You need to use synonyms and related keywords in your content to make it pleasant to read and to make it rank! You need to use different word forms in order to write a post that is nice to read. Thanks to stemming, we can tell that they belong together. Read more about it in our post about our word form analysis.

Conclusion

The SEO industry has been talking about stemming and lemmatization for over a decade. Our linguists talk about it too. For good reason, because stemming allows them to recognize different word forms. This isn’t “easy”. At Yoast, we have an entire team of linguists working on our SEO and readability analyses. We’re now able to recognize different word forms properly for both English and German. We’re already working on new languages, I know Dutch is high on our list — probably because it’s our native language. Do let me know: which language should we tackle next?

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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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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How to use headings on your site

Headings help users and search engines to read and understand text. They act as signposts for the readers, and make it easier for people to understand what a post or page is about. Headings also define which parts of your content are important, and show how they’re interconnected. Here, we’ll give you pointers on how to think about and use headers to improve your content.

Why use headings?

Use headings to show text structure

Headings are signposts that guide readers through an article. Because people tend to read them carefully, they should indicate what a section or paragraph is about, or people won’t know what to expect. Also, headings may help them get back on track if they get lost.

For web copy, it’s good practice to make sure that your headings are informative to the reader. Some people like to tease their audience in the headings, trying to entice them to read further. While that can work very well, it’s easy to get wrong. Remember that the main focus of headings should be on the content – and the main purpose of headings should be to make the text easier to read and understand.

Read more: Why text structure is important for SEO »

Use headings to improve accessibility

Heading structure is important for accessibility as well, especially for people who can’t easily read from a screen. Because headings are in HTML, a screen reader can understand the article structure and read all the headings out loud.

By reading or listening to the headings in an article, visually impaired people can decide whether or not to read an article. Screen readers also offer shortcuts to jump from one heading to the next, so headings are used for navigation as well.

Don’t forget that, in many cases, what’s good for accessibility is also good for SEO!

Read more: 5 easy accessibility improvements »

Use headings to improve SEO

It’s generally agreed that how you use headings doesn’t specifically impact your SEO; making minor tweaks to individual headings likely won’t help your performance. There are indirect benefits, though. Using headings creates better quality, more easily readable text. Better text is better for users, which is better for your SEO.

And headings give you a great chance to use your focus keyword (or its synonyms) prominently, to make it really clear what the page is about. But it’s important not to over-do it. It shouldn’t feel unnatural or weird, and if it does, that’s probably because you’re trying too hard, or over-optimizing.

So with headings, you should always put the user first. Use them to add structure and signposts to your content, and to describe what each section is about. If your headings let users know what your article is about, they’ll help Google to understand, too.

How to use headings in content

How headings work in WordPress

NOTE: There are two different sets of ‘rules’ when it comes to how to use HTML heading tags; the ‘classic’ approach (from the HTML4 standard), and, the ‘modern’ approach (from the HTML5 standard). We’re going to focus on the classic approach, as there are some usability and SEO challenges with the modern approach (you can read more about that here).

When you’re editing an article in WordPress, you’ll usually see different ‘levels’ of headings in the text editor – from ‘Heading 1’ to ‘Heading 6’. These are ordered by size, and by importance. A ‘Heading 2’ is more important than a ‘Heading 4’.

Behind the scenes, these are converted into HTML heading tags; from `<h1>` to `<h6>`. Your theme probably uses these HTML tags in its templates, too.

That’s why, when we talk about how to structure headings and content well, we talk about ‘H1’ tags, ‘H2’ tags, and so on. We’re referring to the underlying HTML code.

Learning the rules

Your H1 isn’t the same thing as your page title. For more information, you can read about the difference between and H1 and the SEO title.

Firstly, you are limited to using one H1 heading on each page – Yoast SEO’s content analysis checks this. The H1 heading should be the name/title of the page or post. On this page, that’s “How to use headings on your site”. You can think of your H1 like you would think of name of a book. On a category page, your H1 would be the name of that category. On a product page, it should be the product name.

Then, as you write your content, you can use H2 and H3 headings to introduce different sections – like the “Learning the rules“ section which you’re currently reading, which sits within the “How to use headings in content” section. Think of H2 headings like the chapters of a book. Those individual sections might also use more specific headers (h3 tags, then H4 tags, etc) to introduce sub-sections.

It’s rare for most content to get ‘deep’ enough to need to use H4 tags and beyond unless you’re writing really long, or really technical content.

An example heading structure

Let’s say that we have a blog post about ballet shoes. We’ve chosen “ballet shoes” as our focus keyword, and written an article about all of the reasons why we like ballet shoes.

Without headings, there’s a risk that we might end up writing a really long, rambling piece which is hard to understand.

But if we structure things logically using headings, we not only make it easier to read, we help focus our writing.

Here’s what the structure of that post might look like:

  • H1: Ballet shoes are awesome
    • H2: Why we think ballet shoes are awesome
      • H3: They don’t just come in pink!
      • H3: They’re good for more than just dancing
      • H3: They’re not as expensive as you think
    • H2: Where should you buy your ballet shoes?
      • H3: The 10 best ballet equipment websites
      • H3: Our favourite local dancing shops

See how we’ve created a logical structure, using H2 tags to plan out sections, and H3 tags to cover specific topics? You’ll see that we’ve done the same thing in the post you’re reading, too!

We’ve also tried to mention our focus keyword – as well as some related terms – a few times (but only when it makes sense), and to outline the structure of the page. We’ve also tried to promise the reader something in each section, to encourage them to read through.

This is a good example of how your headings should be structured in medium-length article. For a shorter article, you should use fewer (or more general, high-level) headings. If you want to go into much more detail, there’s nothing stopping you from using H4 tags to create even ‘lower-level’ sections!

Headings in WordPress themes

Most themes will use headings as part of their HTML code, but some don’t follow best practice.

Almost all themes will automatically use the name of your article in a H1 tag. This is helpful, because it means you don’t need to repeat the post name inside your content.

Unfortunately, some themes use tags incorrectly – they use tags in an illogical order (e.g., a H4 then a H2), or use tags messily in sidebars, headers and footers. This can cause problems for accessibility, as the order of your headings might not make sense. Users, search engines and assistive technologies usually look at the whole page, not just your content area.

If you have a custom theme, you might be able to fix this by adjusting your HTML code. If you’re using an off-the-shelf theme, you may need to reach out to the developers.

Either way, you should check that your headings make sense on each template type!

Check your blog’s headings

Using headings well is helpful for your users, increases chances of people actually reading your article, improves accessibility and might even contribute to SEO. So add them into your copy – just make sure you use them correctly! If you want to check if you do, go and use the now to check your blog’s outline. When you’ve read and understood all the above, you should now be able to determine whether your theme is doing a good job.

If you’re still using the Classic Editor in your WordPress website, you can test your published article via the W3 Validator.

If you’re using the Block Editor in WordPress, there’s a handy button in the upper left of the content editing screen, which shows an outline of the page you’re editing.

If you’ve structured your content well, it should look something like this!

Headings in the block editor in WordPress

Read more: WordPress SEO: the definitive guide to higher rankings for your WordPress site »

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Cornerstone analysis to help you create your best articles

Cornerstone articles should be the best and most complete articles on your website. That means that you should make an effort to make this article as awesome as possible. Raise your normal standards and write extraordinary cornerstones. To help you create excellent cornerstone articles, we developed a special cornerstone analysis.

Why do you need a separate analysis?

Of course, our default SEO and readability analysis already helps you to write awesome articles. So, why do you need a separate analysis for cornerstones? The answer to this question is that for cornerstone articles you should raise the bar. Your cornerstones should be the best. They should be better than your other articles, which means a lot is demanded of your writing. Our cornerstone analysis will help you to raise your standards (and stick to them). It will be harder to score that green bullet. You have to do all the important things right!

What does the cornerstone analysis do?

You know our green bullets, right? In our default analysis, we check whether or not your post is readable and SEO-friendly. The cornerstone analysis is an adaptation of the default SEO analysis. In the cornerstone analysis, we’ve set higher standards. A few checks in both the readability analysis, as well as the SEO analysis have been adapted to assess your text more strictly.

How does it work?

When you’re working on a cornerstone, you should indicate so by switching the cornerstone toggle. Once you’ve switched the toggle, the default analysis will automatically change into the cornerstone analysis.

Enabling the cornerstone analysis in Yoast SEO

Which checks are adapted?

To create the cornerstone analysis, we altered 2 readability checks and 6 SEO checks. You’ll need to use enough subheadings, and should make sure to write concise sentences to receive a green bullet in the readability analysis. Cornerstone articles are usually long and therefore a bit harder to read. Subheadings and short sentences will help people to read all the way through the end.

The most important adaptation in the SEO checks is the demand for a lengthy article. Cornerstone articles aim to provide the best and most complete information on a particular topic, which means that they need to be long. In order to score a green bullet on text length, you’ll need to write an article of at least 900 words.

The other checks we adapted for cornerstone articles are:

We’re just a bit stricter concerning these checks. To score a green bullet, you need get all of these right: use keywords in the subheadings, write an awesome meta description, use your keyword in the URL and make sure your images are optimized properly. For cornerstones you just need to go all the way. These are the articles you would like to rank with, so make sure you give them the very best chances.

Strict analysis cornerstone content

Optimize your cornerstones!

So, go ahead and start optimizing your cornerstone articles to make them rank higher. Use the free cornerstone analysis in Yoast SEO as a guide, to find out which aspects of the article you could improve. Keep an eye on the text link counter to see if your cornerstones receive enough internal links. And if you want to take it a step further, get Premium to help you do some sophisticated internal linking. Good luck!

Read more: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

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