Whenever you click on a link to visit a site a request gets made to the server. The server answers with a status message (header) and a file list for that website. After viewing that list, the browser asks for the files one at a time. On the ‘old’ HTTP1.1 protocol, this process takes ages as there is only one line available that has to open and close after each file has been sent. HTTP/2 offers a dramatic speed boost as the line can be kept open and a lot of stuff can be sent at once. Meet HTTP/2!

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How does HTTP/2 work?

Let’s say you want a brand-new box of LEGO. First, you go to the store to get a specific box. When you get home, you open the box and see the instructions. The instructions say what you have to do: one brick at a time. Now, you can only get one brick at a time. You have to keep asking the instructions: “Which brick do I need now?” And the instructions will look and give you the right brick. This back-and-forth keeps happening until you have finished the entire LEGO set. Does the set have 3300 bricks? Well, that’ll take a while. This is HTTP1.1.

With HTTP/2 this changes. You go to the store to pick up your box. Open it, find the instructions and you can ask for all the bricks used on a part of the LEGO set. You can keep asking the instructions for more bricks, without having to look at the manual. “These bricks go together, so here they are.” If you want it really fast, you could even get all the bricks at once so you can build the set in an instant.

http1.1 vs http2

HTTP/2 can handle more things at once

HTTP/2 has a lot of cool features that can help speed up your loading times. The most important one, of course, is full multiplexing. This means that multiple requests can happen at the same time over a connection that stays open for the duration of the transfer process. Another cool thing is Server push; this starts as one request but when the server notices the HTML requires several assets, it can send these all at once without asking. This might be a good fit for your site, but that depends on factors too hard to explain here.

Like I said in the intro, with HTTP1.1 a browser requests a site -> server sends a header back -> that header contains a status message and HTML body -> for every file needed to build the site, a single connection has to be opened and closed and opened and closed. Whenever a piece of this puzzle acts up it can hold back the rest, slowing the process down even further. This is called head-of-line blocking and it sucks big time. This is one of the many reasons why HTTP1.1 can use an update.

Why HTTP/2 for SEO? Because site speed is important

We need speed. Site speed has been an SEO ranking factor for years. Now, with the introduction of the mobile-first index Google will take a critical look at the loading speed of your mobile site. Over the past few years, sites have only gotten bigger. Big sites have loads of assets like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, images et cetera and that equals longer loading time.

Another big issues is latency — especially on mobile devices. The longer your latency is, the longer it takes for your request to reach the server and for the server to send back the response. That’s why you should always use a CDN to reduce the time it will take to get your stuff to your readers from a nearby location. While browsers can handle a small amount of multiple connections, which in itself, adds additional time to the whole ordeal, the process of sending stuff back and forth doesn’t really change.

There are some things you can do to improve site speed by fine-tuning how your server handles these things, but at its core, HTTP1.1 isn’t a very efficient process. HTTP/2 makes this process a lot easier to manage for servers and browsers, therefore, drastically speeding things up. Keep in mind that the advent of HTTP/2 does not retire HTTP1.1 as browsers will still use the old protocol as fallback.

Implementing HTTP/2

Implementing HTTP/2 is fairly easy and it could be that your server is already using HTTP/2. Check with your hosting provider what your options are. You can also choose a Content Delivery Network, also known as a CDN, that offers a full HTTP/2 solution. HTTP/2 offers a quick performance win and it even lets you secure your site, because it uses HTTPS connections by default.

Conclusion to what is HTTP/2

HTTP/2 is a newish protocol that will drastically speed up the web. It uses new technologies to take away one of the biggest bottle necks of the web introducing full multiplexing connections. Servers can now open a single connection with a browser and keep sending all the files of a site until everything is done. After that the connection closes and the browser can render the site.

Read more: ‘Performance optimization in an HTTP/2 world’ »

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Just recently, a friend of mine asked me to have a quick peek at his website, as he felt some of his keywords didn’t perform as well as before. Some other websites outranked him in Google, and he wondered why. In such a case, it often pays to do a quick competitive analysis. In most cases, it’s not necessarily your site that’s performing worse; it’s other sites doing better. Now I know he’s all about content optimization and uses our plugin. First, I checked the configuration of the Yoast SEO Premium plugin, but all seemed to be in order. What else could have happened?

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If you want to do a competitive analysis to optimize your SEO efforts, there’s actually quite a lot you can do yourself, without having to hire an expensive SEO consultant. Let me take you through the steps!

Step 1: Define your keywords

It’s very important to use the right keywords in a competitive analysis. If you insist on using your, possibly branded, company outing as one of the main keywords, you might not even have any competition, let alone any decent organic traffic to your website. An example: if you are offering ‘holiday homes’, but insist on using the keyword ‘vacation cottage’, you are selling yourself short. Match the words your customers use.

Proper keyword research will be of help, not just for this competitive analysis, but for the entire SEO optimization of your website, so please put some effort in it.

Step 2: Analyze these keywords

Once you have defined the keywords you’d like to check against your competitors, the next step is obvious: do a search for these keywords. See who your competitors are by writing down who ranks higher than you.

Be realistic

If you are on page two in Google and want to do a competitive analysis with the number one, there is probably a lot to gain. But you should probably accept the fact that your rankings will go up step by step, and that the high ranking websites, depending on the keywords, might have a higher marketing budget than you to back their ranking strategies. It could be the main reason they rank so high. Don’t give up; our mission is ‘SEO for everyone‘ for a reason. Climb to higher rankings step by step and try to increase your marketing budget along the way.

Check the keywords and make them long-tail or add local keywords (city name, region name) to them, if needed. Do a thorough analysis. Google Trends will tell you what keywords have more traffic in the target markets for your business, and (free/paid) tools like Ahrefs.com and Searchmetrics.com will give you even more keyword insights.

Climbing up in rankings a (few) step(s) at a time

Sometimes, you can achieve a big improvement in your rankings. But if your website is ranking 6, it’s easier to climb to five or four first and then target the top three. Again, that top three probably has the marketing budget to go all out, where your immediate neighbors in rankings are struggling like you. Beat them first; it’s easier. Having said that: if you have the opportunity to dethrone number 1, 2, or 3, of course, go ahead and do so.

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Step 3: Check technical differences

You’ll need to check a number of things to determine on which aspects your competition is ahead of you. The next step of your competitive analysis, after listing the keywords you’d like to perform this analysis for, is to see if there are any technical differences.

Site speed

There are so many ways to check your site speed, which we have mentioned quite often already, like Pingdom and Google’s speed tools. No need for me to explain all that all over again. But, in a competitive analysis, speed insights will tell you if there is a huge difference between you and your main competitors in terms of serving the website and the user experience difference that goes with that. The faster the site, the happier the visitor, and the happier the search engine.

SSL/https

Https and SLL are about serving a secure website to your visitor. It’s becoming the default and for a good reason. Serving a secure website is about delivering the best user experience and gaining trust from your future customers. It is only logical to rank a secure website over a non-secure one. Again, there are multiple ways to check SLL/https in a competitive analysis. A nice overview is given by Builtwith.com, which gives you a ton of technical information, including SSL certificate, etc. You can obviously check your browser’s address bar for this as well, but Builtwith could give you some more insights while going over all other details. Like what CMS your competitor uses (and if he/she upgraded his/her WordPress install and you didn’t?).

Mobile site

Mobile-first. Mobile parity. Mobile UX. It’s all about mobile these days. It makes sense, as most of today’s website traffic is from mobile devices, exceptions aside.

A good mobile website is about getting your visitor to the right page as soon as possible. This has to do with speed, with deciding about top tasks on your website and with a clear and pleasant, branded design. Go check the websites of your competitors and see where they are clearly outperforming you. Test this, using for instance:

Step 4: Find content opportunities

Although technical optimizations are crucial, the quick wins will probably be in the field of content. What have you written about your company and products, and what did your competitor publish on their website?

Click all menu items

What are the main pages, what is your competitor trying to sell? And how did he/she manage to rank above you? See how focused their menu is and what pages they link to from there. We’ve found that placing ourselves in the mindset of our visitor pays off much more than writing about all the amazing SEO stuff we managed to add to our plugins, or all the SEO knowledge we share in our courses. What’s the end goal of all that SEO? It’s serving your website better to Google, which will lead to better rankings. You might not care about what schema.org does, or what XML sitemaps are, but if they benefit your business goals, you probably want to add them to your website.

See if your competitor tells a better story than you. And improve your story. The main menu of your website should be targeted at your visitor, not as much at explaining all the awesome things you came up with.

Category pages or product pages

If you have a shop, it could be interesting to do a competitive analysis of your competitor’s shop structure. Is he or she trying to persuade the customer on a product page, or already on category pages? In a market where there are a gazillion products, ranking in each and every niche is tough! It’s probably better to optimize most of your category pages. Write appealing, quality content, make these pages cornerstone and try to rank a lot of ’em. Here’s more on optimizing that category page of your online shop.

Your competitive analysis will tell you which of these pages are optimized by your main competitors. Optimize yours accordingly and, obviously, better.

Sitemap

A sitemap can show you the site structure of your competitor, be it via an HTML sitemap or XML sitemap. It can tell you, for instance, if he or she is targeting certain long-tail keywords via the slugs of the pages, and a few clicks to their pages will tell you how their internal linking is done.

You can find that sitemap on most sites at example.com/sitemap.xml or example.com/sitemap_index.xml or at example.com/sitemap. Sometimes a website simply doesn’t have that sitemap, but tools like Screaming Frog and Xenu might help you out. Crawl the site and order by URL.

Blog

The main question here is: do you have a blog? A blog makes for dynamic content, keeps your site current and, if you post regularly, Google will find all kinds of interesting, recent ‘Last Updated’ dates. If you don’t have a blog, and your competitor has and ranks better, get a blog. Your competitor has probably woven that blog into their content strategy.

Step 5: Compare UX

Great UX makes for better time-on-site, more pageviews, and a lower bounce rate. I’m not going into this too much here, as I think in a competitive analysis you should focus on other things first, but I wanted to highlight two things: call-to-action and contact.

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Call-to-action

A great call-to-action helps any page. Regardless of whether it’s to drive sales or engagement, every page needs a proper call-to-action. Simply go over some of your competitor’s pages and see how they went about this. See if you can grab some ideas of this and improve your own call-to-action. Oh, and remove that slider and/or video background. That’s not a call-to-action. That’s a call to no action.

Contact page & address details

Your contact page and your address details could be the end goal of a visit to your page. If so, check how the competition created that page. Did they add structured data, for instance? Is there a contact form? Did they make it easier to find these details than you did? Adjust accordingly, if comparing this sparks some great ideas.

Step 6: Perform a backlink analysis

Last but not least: if all seems reasonably the same, and there is no logical way to explain why your competitor outranks you, it just might be that the other website has a great deal more relevant links than you do. Or simply better ones. You’d have to check Ahrefs.com, Moz’s OpenSiteExplorer or, for instance, Searchmetrics for this.

Follow-up on your competitive analysis!

At this point, you know the main differences between your competitor’s site and your site. This is the moment where you start prioritizing optimizations and get to work. First, take care of low-hanging fruit, and fix things that are easily fixed asap. Next, determine what issues might have the biggest impact on your rankings, and solve these as well. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you will have no problem with this. I’d go for any speed and content issues first, and try to get some more backlinks in the process.

If you can’t solve any of these issues, feel free to reach out to any of our partners. They can probably help you out, or perform an even more thorough competitive analysis for you!

Read more: ‘3 SEO quick wins to implement right now’ »

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We’re all ready for a new year of increasing sales, lifting engagement and giving our website the best effort possible. It only seems right to give you a three-step rocket of SEO quick wins, to kick-start your website for 2018. In this post, I will show you three things you can do right now to improve your website for your visitors, and for Google in the process. Let’s dive right in with number one.

#1 Optimize speed

No matter if you want to improve your mobile website or your desktop website, speed is something you want to monitor and improve all the time. These are fast times, and speed is definitely what you want to optimize for.

In a simple breakdown of speed optimization, we have images, browser caching, and script optimization. Google PageSpeed will tell you that, Pingdom will tell you that. Gzip Compression is the fourth one, but that should be enabled by default in my book. More on compression here. Let’s look at the other three.

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File size optimization

Optimizing your file size is an important part of image SEO, so let’s start there. There are a few ways to approach this:

  • Optimize the image file size in Photoshop (or any other image edit program you use). Usually, just exporting the image in a lower quality will already do the trick. I usually check whether reducing the quality to around 80% of the original still gives me a crisp image.
  • Download an application like ImageOptim or any of these applications and further optimize your file size before uploading.
  • Last but not least, make sure that the image dimensions of the image you use, fit the image ‘space’ that you reserved for it on the webpage. Don’t display a 1200×400 pixels photo as a 300×100 pixels image by adding CSS or whatever.

Browser caching

Browser caching is the way your browser stores files of a website, for instance the logo you see at the top of our website, so it doesn’t have to load them from the internet every time you visit another page of our website. This obviously saves time. There are many ways to go about this, but the easiest is probably (if you are using a WordPress site) using a plugin. Most speed optimization plugins support this browser caching and most set them right time for you. Among some of my favorite speed plugins are WP SuperCache, which is free, and WP Rocket, which is a premium plugin. For more on browser caching, visit this page.

Optimize script handling

You can load a gazillion JavaScript (JS) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files to enhance your website, but in the end all these extra files just slow your website down. Please focus on these steps to optimize your script handling:

  1. Are you sure you need that enhancement? JS and CSS usually target design and user experience. In some cases, you just don’t need that enhancement. Like JS and CSS loaded for sliders, for instance. There are alternatives to sliders that work better and don’t require extra files.
  2. Is there a way to reduce the file size of these scripts / styles? We call this process ‘minifying’. We have an Ask Yoast about it. Google has some great pointers on how to approach this. Simple scripts and handy websites can help you minify your files, for instance by stripping comments. Most platforms have plugins or extensions that help with this. For instance, Magento has the Fooman Speedster (free and paid) for that.
  3. Is it possible to combine a number of these scripts into one file? That way, there only has to be one call to the server to retrieve all the scripts. Again, there are plugins for that, but if you have small pieces of JS, you might as well combine these yourself. Of course, the advent of HTTP/2 changes some of these optimization practices. Test this!

#2 Mobile optimization

It’s tempting to copy our ultimate guide to mobile SEO here, but let’s focus on the quick wins. You need to focus on mobile SEO these days, to be ready for Google’s mobile-first index. Google will start to determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of a site, only taking your desktop site into account after that. So, let’s get that mobile version up and running, right?

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Task-based design

Open your mobile website. Imagine you are a fresh, new user of your website. What would that person want to do here and is your site ready for that? Focus on a task-based design. If we are on a mobile website, we might need opening hours or an address. Just the other day, I purchased tickets for the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum on my mobile phone. Saved a buck and didn’t have to get in line for tickets. I did this, walking from my car to the entrance. One needs to be able to do these basic tasks without any problem. Ask yourself what the four, perhaps five main goals of a visitor on your website are and make sure these can be done on your mobile website.

Performance-based design

Are you loading any huge images on your site? Do people have to scroll for ages to read the good stuff you offer them? On a mobile website, we want to get in and get out as fast as possible – unless it’s, for instance, a news website. Loading time is a factor on a mobile site, especially with mobile connections usually being slower than most desktop connections. Make sure your design and content don’t depend on large images too much. And yes, there are exceptions to that rule. If I visit a photographer’s website, I know beforehand that I am in for longer loading times. I want crisp images and that is the price I pay. Optimize to an acceptable level for your target audience.

Write great content

This goes for mobile and desktop versions of your site: they need great content. A quick win for mobile content is to add a to-the-point first paragraph. If you tell your visitor what’s on your page, they can decide for themselves if they want to scroll down or not. It helps user experience to do this.

And of course, you’ll need to write awesome content after that paragraph as well. You still need to do keyword research, set up a great site structure and decide on cornerstone content. But you can imagine that to be a slightly lengthier process, and we’re talking quick wins here :)

#3 Serve your content in the right format

There are so many ways to serve your content to Google, Facebook and your visitors. Your task for 2018 is definitely to investigate which formats you should invest in. Some take a bit more time to implement; others can be added to your website by the push of a button, like with a plugin. Let’s go over a few important ones.

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Better social sharing: Open Graph

Forget about Twitter Cards for now, as Twitter has a fallback to Open Graph. So add Open Graph to your website if you haven’t done this already. It’s like a social summary of your website. For our homepage, it reads among other things:

<meta property="og:title" content="SEO for everyone • Yoast" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Yoast helps you with your website optimization, whether it be through our widely used SEO software or our online SEO courses: we're here to help." />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://yoast.com/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Yoast" />

There’s a page / site title and summary plus link, which tells Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter all they need to know to create a great post on your visitor’s timeline. You can add an og:image to create a richer experience. Be sure to add this. Again, use a plugin like Yoast SEO for TYPO3 to automate the process (and add these Twitter Cards along with Open Graph in no time).

Quick reads on other platforms: AMP

Facebook links to your AMP article if possible. Ever found yourself reading an article in Google? Might be AMP as well. Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP, aim to strip your website to the bare necessities to deliver your reader the best mobile experience they can get. If they want to read your article, AMP will give ’em just your article in a basic design. If you want to check a certain product, AMP will strip the store to deliver a focused design. A bad thing? I think not. Every way you can help your visitor get a better experience, increases the chance of them coming back to your content / site. It might increase sales, because it’s so focused. Go read up on AMP and get your site ready. Again: plugins.

Tell Google what your page is about: Schema.org

I will end this list of quick SEO wins with something we have been telling you about quite often in the past year: add schema.org to your website. Structured data, like Open Graph and schema, create a convenient summary of your website for every other site that wants to use your content. Schema.org data is one of the main types of structured data. JSON-LD gives us a convenient way of adding it to our website. Our Local SEO plugin adds the right schema.org so that Google can add your company to Google Maps as well, for instance. Add schema.org data to your website and see your company in the knowledge graph as well.

Serving your content in the right format is essential to deliver it to other ‘places’ on the website. Be sure to use it. And if you are not sure what structured data you should use to optimize your pages, be sure to enroll in our Structured Data Training. How’s that for a New Year’s resolution? Good luck optimizing!

Read more: ‘Search and SEO in 2018’ »

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Today’s case study is about renting holiday homes. There are a million holiday homes out there in all shapes and sizes. So what about a castle? A reader sent us a link to the site of a beautiful castle, located in France: Chateau de Lastours. The rooms and apartments are for rent. Let’s have a look at their site to see how they can improve it and welcome more visitors!

Speeding up the trip to France

One of the first things you will notice about a site is the speed. How long does it take for a page to fully load? In this case, we used Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get an idea of the site speed. Unfortunately, this site doesn’t do so well. For the homepage on desktop, it scores a poor 33 / 100, and 30 / 100 for the mobile view. But the upside is that this tool immediately gives a lot of suggestions on how to improve your site.

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Improving images

For a site like this, it is important to have great pictures, so visitors can have a look at the location where they may spend their holiday. However, most of the time, quality images have a large file size, which slows down your page. Optimizing these images, for instance, by compressing them using a tool such as Kraken, you can keep the image’s quality, while reducing the file size.

Turn on browser caching and compression

Two technical aspects to improve your site speed are enabling browser caching and compression. Both sound complicated and I’m not going to lie to you, it is kind of technical, but improving these things will speed up your site a lot!

  • Browser caching has to do with all of the web files a browser must load to properly display a site. The first time you do this it can take a bit longer to load a page. But if you have browser caching enabled, the second time a lot of these static files (such as HTML, CSS and images) are stored in the browser’s cache (which means memory) and can, therefore, be accessed much faster.
  • GZIP compression is about compressing your web pages and style sheets before they’re sent to the browser. This makes your page load faster.

Both options can be activated by adding a piece of code to your .htaccess file. A .htaccess file is a configuration file for use on web servers running the Apache Web Server software. In our Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily edit the .htaccess file and put in an extra piece of code. Make sure to create a backup of your site before you do this, in case something goes wrong. But in my experience, following the steps from the Siteground tutorial, is a good way to do this. Here, you can find the tutorial for browser caching and compression.

Pardon my French!

Don’t worry, I’m not planning to curse my way through this review. But I do have some remarks about the different languages on the site. First of all, my compliments for having the ability to switch between several languages. This makes your site usable for a much larger audience. But I also see some aspects which aren’t ideal. When I open the blog page, I see posts in various languages. You should consider translating every post to every language so all your visitors can have the full experience.

Secondly, some pages have elements in various languages, which is kind of confusing. For instance, this wedding page.

Last but not least, a little comment on the menu items on the English version of the site. The ‘restaurant’ menu item is in French (Table d’hôtes). Now, my high school French isn’t what it used to be anymore, so I couldn’t figure out what this meant until clicking on the menu item itself and reading the page. This is not ideal. You want your menu items to be as clear as possible, to entice visitors to click on them.

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Make sure you don’t get lost

Lately, Google is focusing more and more on structured data. Google uses this to understand the content on a certain page. There is some basic data that almost every company can add, such as structured data for contact details. But in this case, I’d also recommend adding structured data for lodging businesses. This way, Google can immediately recognize the purpose of your site and take that into account when potential visitors search for something that you can offer them. In our structured data training, we explain everything you need to know about implementing structured data.

Another important aspect of making sure that potential visitors can find you, is registering on sites like booking.com. You can optimize your site all you want, but a lot of potential visitors will never even search in Google for a vacation rental in France. Instead, they’ll just go to large sites that offer all the the options and information they need. Fortunately, Chateau de Lastours, can be found on booking.com, which makes them findable for a large audience.

Meeting the locals

The Chateau de Lastours’ site is already doing a great job with how their site looks. It has the right ‘look’ and ‘feel’ you want for such a site; it contains lots of pictures but not in a spammy way. And it has a clear menu which shows all the services they have to offer. Yet, I do have one recommendation: adding an ‘about us’ page. This is a small business, in which the owners themselves provide all the services, which can be a unique selling point you want to display on your site. An ‘about us’ page should contain a short introduction of the owners, why they decided to move to France and start this business, and how passionate they are about their work. Don’t forget to add pictures of yourself! Such a page will increase trust among your visitors and could convince them that they want to stay with these people.

Let’s go to the chateau!

All in all, the website of the Chateau de Lastours is already doing well on many aspects. It offers content in several different languages and has a clear menu which leads visitors to the right pages. The imagery on the site evokes the warm atmosphere of Southern France. Doing this case study, I immediately felt like packing my bags and spending a week at the chateau, and that’s exactly the kind of feeling you want your visitors to have. If the site owners improve their site speed, work a bit more on the different languages on their site and add an ‘about us’ page, they’ll surely attract even more guests to stay with them!

Read more: ‘How to avoid common SEO mistakes’ »

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This week, we’ve been showing you how to perform an SEO audit on your website. By regularly auditing your – or your client’s – sites, you can get a good feel for what you still need to do to improve SEO. In part 1, I talked about user experience and content SEO and in part 2, I’ve touched on general SEO issues. Here, I’ll round off this series with a look at site speed and engagement.

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Perform an SEO audit: Site speed

Let’s not forget the speed of your site, not just because we all browse the web a lot more on our mobile devices, over not-so-broadband networks, but also because a fast site makes Google and in most cases your conversion rate happier.

Combine and minify CSS and JS files

The first and easiest check would be to open the source of your website in a browser and do a search for “.js” or “.css”. If the amount of results scares you, you know there’s work to do. I can’t give you an exact number for this, but multiple lines of JavaScript files or CSS files, usually indicate there’s a large change that you can speed up your site by minifying JS or CSS files and combine them. Google Page Speed Insights will also tell you if this is an area you can improve in, and guide you a bit in the process:

SEO Audit: PageSpeed Insights

Click the “Show how to fix links” in there for more information. Another Google tool to help you check your site speed is Google Lighthouse.

Browser caching

Browser caching is about how a browser remembers / stores your website for faster visiting the next time you come to that website. There are plenty of plugins like WP Rocket or WP Super Cache that can help you with this. If you’re not sure if you need to optimize your browser caching, simply check how you are doing in the Google PageSpeed Insights we mentioned earlier, or websites like WebpageTest.org. It will tell you among other things how if your browser caching is optimized. These websites will also tell you if there is room for improvement regarding compression.

Enable compression

Compression is making your files as small as possible before sending them to the user’s browser (where they indeed might/will end up in your browser caching). As Google itself puts it:

Enabling gzip compression can reduce the size of the transferred response by up to 90%, which can significantly reduce the amount of time to download the resource, reduce data usage for the client, and improve the time to first render of your pages.

The same tools as mentioned at browser caching work for compression, but as I feel compression should be on for every website, I really liked to mention it separately. Check your compression yourself. In addition, there’s no need to compress files when your site is on a HTTP/2 connection. Read more about performance optimization in an HTTP/2 world.

Engagement

Google will bring people to your website, but engagement can help return visitors and for instance sales promotions.

Social media

The obvious engagement related thing is social media. Check some social platforms, starting with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to see if your desired audience is present on these platforms. If you haven’t created a profile there, please do so and start building your audience.

If you are doing this, please check if these social profiles are listed on your website, and how they are listed. Would you subscribe yourself, or do you have to go on a search quest to find these buttons? Monitor clicks on these buttons, because a lot of people just look for your company on Facebook instead of clicking those. If nobody uses these buttons, replace them with a footer link or something like that. How to approach this depends on how popular your social profile is / will become.

Newsletter

We changed our newsletter approach for the better a while back when we switched from two to three newsletters a week. That seems like a lot, I know. Our main goal is to deliver something extra in every newsletter. Of course, we want to keep you up-to-date regarding SEO, our newest articles and promotions, and events. But we keep a keen eye on that newsletter and strive not to repeat ourselves.

If you are ready to start sending that newsletter, please add the subscription option for that newsletter on a nice spot on your website, not hidden from your audience, but in plain sight. Don’t ask you, subscribers, a ton of information about themselves, but simply have them fill out their email address and start sending that newsletter.

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You’ve just done your (first) SEO audit

If you have reached the end of this article series, you have intentionally or unintentionally, done your (first) SEO audit. I am sure that during the reading of this article, you have gone over your site, beit in your mind or actually over your site, and you have found something to work on.

If you perform an SEO audit now and then, you make sure your website’s up-to-date. It should be part of your frequent site maintenance cycle, I think. Good job!

Any additions for quick checks of your site’s SEO health? Love to hear from you!

Read more: ‘WordPress SEO: the Definitive Guide’ »

The post How to perform an SEO audit. Part 3: Site speed & Engagement appeared first on Yoast.

Two words you often hear together are mobile and site speed. And that’s not without reason because these two go hand in hand. Mobile-friendliness and site speed are some of the most pressing matters we have to deal with as SEOs, developers, and site owners. Measuring page speed has always been something of a dark art. The site speed tools we use today are fairly adequate, but another tool is trying to come at it from a different, more realistic angle: Google Lighthouse. Here, I’ll take a closer look at how to check your mobile site speed and SEO with Google Lighthouse.

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What is Google Lighthouse?

Lighthouse is a tool built by Google and was initially meant to audit Progressive Web Apps (PWA). The tool executes four audits for accessibility, performance, Progressive Web Apps and an extended list of best practices. Recently, Google even added a basic SEO check. Together, these give you an excellent overview of the quality and performance of your website or web app.

Site speed is all about perception and user experience. Speed in numbers means nothing if your site still feels slow. Loads of users around the world are on rather crappy mobile connections of 3G or less. Even with lightning-fast 4G connections, a site can simply feel laggy and slow. And we all know what a devastating effect a slow site can have on your conversion. Shaving milliseconds of the time needed to load your site could make a world of difference.

While testing, Google Lighthouse simulates visiting your mobile site via a flaky 3G connection on a slightly underpowered device. Packets are lost in an attempt to simulate real-world conditions as authentically as possible. After running the test, you’ll get a report with a score and actionable advice with issues to tackle. Granted, the recently updated and redesigned Test My Site by Google is infinitely more beautiful, but also a lot less comprehensive.Yoast Lighthouse Chrome plugin

PageSpeed Insights vs. Google Lighthouse

PageSpeed Insights is probably the most used site speed analysis tool out there. While it gives you a nice score and a list of possible improvements, it also gives you an idea of the perceived loading speed of your site. Also, PageSpeed Insights gives recommendations, but these are hard, if not impossible to implement – getting a 100/100 is a pipe dream for most sites.

The two most important things PageSpeed Insights looks at:

  • First Contentful Paint: This is the time that it takes before a user sees a visual response from the page.
  • DOM Content Loaded: This is the time that it takes to fully parse and render an HTML document, ie. the requested page.

Lighthouse takes a much more practical approach and puts user experience front and center. It visits your site over a throttled 3G connection so it can emulate what a real visitor in the real world would experience. Instead of just loading your site as PageSpeed Insights does, Lighthouse checks how and when it responds to input. It finds the exact moment when your content is ready to use, so you can try and optimize that when it feels too slow.

What to look for in Lighthouse results

The whole concept of speeding up your mobile site is two-pronged; your site must be fast, and it must feel fast. You, therefore, need to get your content on screen as fast as possible. Don’t let people wait. Also, users must be able to interact with your content as soon as possible. Since Google announced that page speed is a ranking factor for SEO, you need to fix these issues.

What should your priority be? Load your content first. Awesome graphics and killer animations can wait. Your message – and what people are looking for – is most likely in the content. You can load the rest of the content in the background and ease it on the screen later on.

Metrics used

While measuring the performance of your mobile site, Lighthouse uses the following metrics:

  • First meaningful paint: This determines how long it takes for the first meaningful content to appear onscreen. The lower the score, the faster that page appears.
  • First interactive: This measures when a page is minimally interactive. This determines if most UI elements are interactive and if the screen responds reasonably to user input.
  • Consistently interactive: This measures when a page is fully interactive.
  • Perceptual speed index: This speed index shows how quickly the contents of a page are visibly populated. It also comes with a target loading time of <1,250 ms.
  • Estimated latency input: This measures how long it takes for your page to respond to user input. A high latency will result in a page that feels sluggish or laggy. The target here is <50 ms.
  • Critical requests chain: This network waterfall shows what resources are needed to render this page initially. Prioritize asset loading in the critical rendering path to speed up the page.

The Lighthouse report also features some opportunities to improve the site speed of your mobile site, including how much loading time they will save. These include reducing render-blocking stylesheets, render-blocking scripts, properly sizing images and fixing offscreen images.

All in all, Lighthouse gives you a tremendous amount of insight into the performance of your page. Use these insights to your advantage.

The Lighthouse SEO check

The latest addition to Lighthouse is a basic SEO check. With this check, you can run a simple SEO audit to uncover basics SEO issues a site may have. It gives you suggestions to fix them as well. Since Lighthouse runs locally in your browser, you can run the checks on your staging environment as well.

Google says the SEO check is very much a work in progress and that it currently supports only the most basic SEO checks. They are actively listening to users’ feedback to improve it and to add checks to bring value to SEOs.

Currently, Lighthouse checks:

  • Does it have a <meta name="viewport"> tag with width or initial-scale
  • Does the document have a <title> element?
  • Is there a meta description?
  • Does the page have a successful HTTP status code?
  • Do links have descriptive text?
  • Does the document use legible font sizes?
  • Is page not blocked from indexing?
  • Does the document have a valid hreflang
  • Does the document have a valid rel=canonical
  • Are there any unwanted plugins?

Also, it suggests some extra checks to run manually. These include the Google Mobile-friendly Test and the Structured Data Testing tool.

How to install Google Lighthouse

Getting started with Google Lighthouse is very easy as it is built into Chrome’s Developer Tools Audit panel (Mac: Shift+Cmd+I. Win: Ctrl+Shift+J or F12). From there, you can run the test and get the full report. In addition, there is a separate Chrome add-on for Lighthouse that adds a button to your toolbar, though using it stays the same.

You can also run Lighthouse as a Node package. This way, you can incorporate the test into your build process. When using the Node package, you will also see that there are a couple of audits that only work in a Node environment and not in the Audits panel of the DevTools.

To install Lighthouse globally from the command line use:

npm install -g lighthouse

If you want to run a test for https://example.com use:

lighthouse https://example.com

The full results of the audit will be available in the terminal, but also in a separate HTML file.

yoast lighthouse devtools audits

Testing Yoast.com in Lighthouse

It’s time to put Lighthouse through its paces. Let’s see what happens when I shine the spotlight of the lighthouse on yoast.com. Some of the audits are most useful for Progressive Web Apps. Now, Yoast.com isn’t available as web app yet, so we’re only focussing on the Performance tab here. This tab shows how your site or app performs currently and shows you ways to improve it.

In the screenshot below, you can see the results for yoast.com. The initial loading of the site is visualized by a bar showing when the content first appears onscreen. It shows how many milliseconds it takes for the content to become visible. The faster, the better.

Lighthouse Performance Report YoastBelow that graphic, you’ll find the most important information, with a green, orange or red bar to show how well the performance is. When you want to optimize the performance of your mobile site, you need to watch the figures for first meaningful paint, first interactive and consistently interactive, as mentioned earlier. Also, try to lower the perceptual speed index and the estimated latency.

From the grades, you can see that yoast.com does OK with a 75 overall score. The first meaningful paint could be a bit better, but the first interactive and consistently interactive are good at 4,360ms. They even happen at the same time. That’s good news, as the site is completely useable at the moment it appears interactive. There also isn’t too much time between the first meaningful paint and the first interactive. While these scores are reasonable, the perceptual speed could be higher. In other words, the site appears to be rather fast but still could use some speeding up in the appearance part.

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Implementing site speed fixes

There’s a lot you can do to improve your site speed. While explaining all the fixes is beyond the scope of this post, most optimizations can be found in the critical rendering path. The critical rendering path is formed by objects – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. Google’s Ilya Grigorik wrote a great guide on how to understand and improve the critical rendering path. And please, don’t forget to optimize your images!

Try it!

Google Lighthouse isn’t the one site speed tool to rule them all, but it is a very valuable addition to your toolkit. The SEO checks are basic, but welcome nonetheless. We know PageSpeed Insights is a fairly static tool that gives you a high-level overview of the performance of your site. Lighthouse, however, is more fine-grained and gives you immediate feedback based on real-world usage. You should definitely use it along with your other page speed test tools, like WebPageTest and GTmetrix.

Are you using Google Lighthouse? How do you find it? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments. Would love to hear from you!

Read on: ‘Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

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After a lot of its and buts, you have finally decided to create a website. A personal website for yourself, or that long overdue website for your business. You know you have to think about design and should supply well-written texts. You’ve already been inquiring about that thing called hosting. You may even have called someone that can build your website for you. All in all, you’re pretty confident that you can now start a website without any problems. But wait. Have you thought about this little thing called SEO?

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Create your website with SEO in mind

A large part of the search engine optimization process starts with focus: what is your website about? You have to focus on what we sometimes call ‘top tasks’. It’s a term used in mobile UX but it most certainly also goes for that moment when you decide to create a website from scratch. What is the purpose of a visitor coming to your website? And how can we make the journey of that visitor a pleasant journey?

When we discuss SEO with people that want to create a website, we focus on two main areas:

  • The technical side of things
  • Filling the website with content

In this post, I’ll highlight a number of important technical issues. In a follow-up post, I will go into the content side of things.

The technical side of things

With WordPress, it’s easy to build a website yourself. But a lot of you have probably hired a web agency to construct your website for you. That doesn’t mean you can sit back and wait for them to finish. There are a lot of things you can check and optimize yourself.

Speed optimization

One thing you want to pay attention to is the speed of your future website. You can easily check that on websites like Google PageSpeed Insights, or Pingdom. In an ideal world, your web agency has already tested things and your own check of your site’s speed will result in nothing but greens and great ratings. If not, these tools will tell you exactly where you can improve. That could be an image of several MBs that slows down the loading of a page, or the loading of an excessive number of JavaScript files, just to name a few.

If you want to learn more about speed optimization, please read Site Speed: tools and suggestions. And make sure your new website is as fast as possible.

URL Structure

Since you are setting up a new site, you still have full control over your URL structure. In most cases, focus is your friend here. Including dates in blog URLs that aren’t related to dates is my favorite example of what not to do. You just don’t need a date in there, unless you are a news website and that date does matter.

For shop websites, focus the URL on your product. Do people use SKUs to find your products? Include one in the URL. If not, please leave them out. Ground-rule: strip your URLs from anything that’s unnecessary. And if we’re honest: /blog/ isn’t a useful addition to your URL, neither is /shop/.

A small remark about the length of your URL: if you use focus, your URL will never need to be too long. I’m not against long URLs, especially since Google seems to leave them out of the search result pages in a growing number of cases. But a shorter, logical URL is easier to remember. And easier to share offline, for that matter.

Heading tags

One of my favorite subjects: heading tags. HTML5 allows for one H1 per block element, am I right? I still recommend against that. If you use one H1 and one H1 only, you need to make very clear for yourself what the subject or focus keyword of that page is. By restricting yourself to that one H1, you most definitely will add focus to that page. It’ll help you to properly optimize – read more about that further down in this post.

It’s simple:

Make it responsive

The mobile version of your website is equally important, if not more important than the desktop version. Mobile-first, they say. Fact is, that your website probably has as many mobile visitors as it has desktop visitors, of course depending on the type of site you have. I think, therefore, that a responsive site should be the default for every website that has been built in 2010 or later. We all use our mobile devices to browse the web, and your website should be ready for that.

If your web developer tells you that the website is accessible from a mobile device, don’t just trust him/her. Go over your mobile website yourself and check if you, as a visitor, can do all you want and need to do there. I already mentioned our article on mobile UX; use that as a reference when testing your mobile site yourself.

Read more: ‘Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

Local optimization

We have written a lot about structured data. Using structured data, you can serve Google your address details in the most convenient way. With for instance JSON, or using our Local SEO for WordPress plugin, you can insert a snippet that will help Google to fix your website/business to a location. This information is used for local searches, but will also end up in Google’s Knowledge Graph:

Apple NY Knowledge Graph

So if your business or website is related to an actual location, be sure to optimize for that part of your site right from the start as well. And definitely add your LocalBusiness data right now, if you haven’t done that already :)

Track your traffic

Let’s not forget this one. I have seen my share of websites where the owner told me that conversion was low or that nobody filled out their contact form. But the owner had no idea how many people got to his/her website. No idea what the main landing pages or exit pages were.

If you are serious about your website, at least install Google Analytics or any other preferred statistics app. Collect data about your visitors, and find out what the customer journey on your website is. Find out what pages people like and which pages they dislike. If you want to know more about Google Analytics, please visit our Google Analytics archives for related posts. When you start a website, don’t wait too long before adding Google Analytics, so you can see your traffic grow from day one.

Get your technical aspects right

If you have covered the technical issues of a new website, you’ll have properly prepared your site for all the great content you’ll be adding. Adding content is the next big step in building an awesome website! We’ll deal with how to approach that in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Keep reading: ‘WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites’ »

The post Create a website with SEO in mind: Technical pointers appeared first on Yoast.

At Yoast, we think SEO only works when you use a holistic approach. Just optimizing your page titles isn’t enough. It’s also about site speed and user experience (UX), and great content is obviously a huge part of it. In a holistic approach, SEO has a lot of “teammates” that have to work together. In this post, we’ll go into a number of areas where SEO and UX meet. Come to think of it, in a lot of ways, SEO simply targets the search engines and UX targets the visitor, both with a shared goal: to provide the best experience possible.

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Common page elements that influence both SEO and UX

If you just look at the basic elements on a page that influence your SEO, you’ll find a close relation between SEO and UX. I’ll list a few elements that are important for both SEO and UX below.

Page titles and (sub)headings

An optimized page title and related, visible <h1> element will tell Google what your page is about. That page title also informs the visitor what that page is about, already on Google’s result page. So does that <h1> element, obviously. Subheadings like <h2> help both Google and your visitors to scan a page and grasp the general idea of that page.

Read more: ‘How to use headings on your site’ »

External links

An external link in your content tells Google that you respect your sources. It can also increase the odds that your sources will link back to you in their content. For your users, external links will provide a way to access background information, for instance.

Great content

If you provide quality content, people want to link to you, and visitors want to read you. And stay on your pages to finish reading. These incoming links and the time-on-page is something Google will notice. Google could start to consider your content as the main source of information on a certain topic. Just like we are for WordPress SEO. Images and videos create rich content, which both Google and your users enjoy. All in all, it’s clear that there are many areas where SEO and UX meet, right there on your pages.

Keep reading: ‘The importance of quality content for SEO’ »

Site structure

When a visitor ends up on any one of your pages, you want to make sure they know where they are on your website. It should be clear to them that there’s more to explore on your site. If you initially fail to answer the user’s question in Google, at least be so polite as to direct them to it. You want to prevent that click back to the search result pages. That click back to the search result pages is called a bounce. And a high bounce rate can have a negative influence on your SEO. It indicates to Google that you may not be answering your visitors’ search query.

One way to prevent a bounce is to make sure your site structure is clearly reflected on your page. That has to do with an optimized menu, but I think even more with just making sure your website has a good structure. Do keyword research, and set up that site structure the right way. Take our site structure course for more in-depth information on that. Setting up the right site structure, means, for starters, that you make sure that your structure is clear from your breadcrumbs and, at least, reflected your menu. You can also think along the lines of related posts and products, for instance.

By building a nice, hierarchical site structure, you make sure that Google can efficiently crawl your pages and visitors can easily find what they are looking for. SEO and UX are naturally influenced by this.

Site speed

Yes, we also have to address site speed, again and again. It’s one of the things that heavily influences both SEO and UX. Google wants to spend only a certain amount of time each time it’s on your site to crawl it. Visitors don’t like waiting for your content to load. When an SEO recommends lazy loading of images, this improves the experience of both users and Google. If you defer parsing of JS and CSS files where possible, you make sure there is something to see on your page as soon as possible. Again, for both Google and the visitor. It’s not rocket science, right?

Read on: ‘Site speed: tools and suggestions’ »

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Mobile experience

What goes for site speed, goes for your mobile website as a whole. Yes, it should be fast, but it should also be well-designed and have a killer navigation, so users and Google can find what they are looking for in a heartbeat. That doesn’t involve cramming everything you have into your website menu. But it could mean that you have to think hard about your mobile homepage. Does it cover the main areas of your website, for your user? Does it set a mood and lure or invite your visitors, and any search engine, into the rest of the website as well?

Even button sizes on your mobile website could be of influence here. I’ve written a post a while back on mobile UX you should read. Every one of those recommendations influences mobile SEO as well, directly or indirectly. And feel free to ask Google’s opinion on your mobile website via their Mobile-friendliness test, for instance.

Conclusion: SEO and UX go hand in hand

As you can see, there are many areas where SEO and UX meet. When you keep in mind that Google is becoming more and more human, or at least mimics human behavior more accurately, it’s only logical to see all the overlap SEO and UX have, right?
I think it’s fair to say that almost all optimization you do for your users (UX) has a positive effect on your SEO. This applies the other way around as well: if you deliver a poor user experience, you might see this reflected in the search result pages! Obviously, the impact of that effect may differ from optimization to optimization. But SEO and UX are clearly a great match in our larger concept of holistic SEO!

Read more: ‘What is on-page SEO’ »

The post Where SEO and UX meet on your site appeared first on Yoast.

With our Ask Yoast case studies we help clients with their SEO by reviewing the website and giving clear advice and hands-on tips. Those clients send us their website because they’re curious what improvements can be made to improve the overall rankings. This time, we reviewed the website of a high-quality sun protection brand: Calypso. The brand started many years ago in the UK but is nowadays sold all around the globe. Let’s dive into the website to see what they’re doing well and what things need improvement. 

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A clean entrance

On entering the website, we immediately see a clean and inviting homepage. The homepage makes sure visitors can easily navigate to the most important content of the website: the actual products. However, we also see things that can be improved.

First of all, we see the slider on top of the homepage. We’re not a big fan of sliders because different studies show that only around 1% of your visitors would actually click on a slide. Besides, sliders often slow down your website a lot, and there are a lot more reasons which you can find in the post linked above.

We think the slider on Calypsosun.com is even more confusing because it contains a video. When a visitor presses the play button within the video, he or she is sent to the video on YouTube:

Slider image link to video

The play button which sends visitors to YouTube

This means that you say goodbye to your visitors in an early stage of their visit. Try to keep them on your website and send them to your content.

What is the best practice in this case? In our eyes, another image, which is now below the fold on the homepage, would be a great top image:

Sun Protection banner

This banner would be a great top image for the homepage

The image contains some introductory content which tells your visitors what’s on the website. Adding a clear call-to-action below this image would be great. Think of a button with a text such as ‘See all products’ to guide your visitors to the product overview page. Below this call-to-action, you can still show the top sellers as you do now.

What are the site’s pages about?

Google needs to understand what a website’s pages are about before the pages can rank for certain keywords. Of course, textual content tells Google what a page is about. An important part of your text are the headings. Headings are meant to tell Google what the main subject of a page is and what other relevant subjects are on the page. This means that the main subject of a page should always be an H1 heading. Subheadings in the text should be H2 or H3 and less important headings should be H4, H5, etc. We recommend using H4 and higher for headings in a sidebar or footer because Google shouldn’t use those to determine what the page is about.

For example, checking one of the product pages of Calypso, we noticed there is no H1 or H2 heading.

The headings on a product page

The name of the product is an H3 heading, but this should be the H1 heading. The subheading ‘Directions of Use’ doesn’t tell so much about the subject of this page so this could indeed be an H5. When the subheading is relevant to the text, it should be an H2 of H3 heading.

Another way of telling Google what a page or post is about is optimizing your site’s metadata such as page titles and meta descriptions. We noticed that Calypso uses great page titles and meta descriptions so they’ve already understood how important this can be for SEO.

Making your pages stronger

It’s clear that every website needs content to rank for certain keywords. If content is well-structured with headings, and page titles are optimized, it’s time to make your most important pages stronger. For Calypso, their product pages are most important because these reflect the products the company is based on. In this case, the product overview page could benefit from a little more SEO-optimized copy.

You might think that blog posts on the website are less relevant. However, blog posts can be valuable in another way, which we’ll explain in the next paragraph. You’ll always have important content and less important pages and posts, but even those have their purpose.

Let Google know what’s important

How do you let Google know what pages are more important? By adding internal links from all relevant pages to the most important pages, you make those pages stronger. When a certain page has lots of links from relevant other pages, Google understands that this page might contain the most important content around a keyword. Make sure you add relevant anchor texts to the internal links to make Google understand for what keywords the most important pages of your website should rank.

For example, when you write a blog post about the best sun protection for kids, you should add internal links to the actual products. If you use anchor text such as ‘Sun protection for kids’, it will be clear to Google what the relevancy between the pages is. Doing this consistently, your product pages will get more and more links and will become the strongest pages of your website.

The ‘Be Sun Ready’ page could be a great cornerstone article for ranking on relevant keywords. This page, however, could benefit from a few optimizations: they could add links to relevant products in the content and a call-to-action-button to the products page. Doing keyword research should provide them with enough keyword suggestions to make this great page SEO-proof.

The products overview

Navigating to the product overview page, we noticed that the categories are visible in tabs above the products:

Product overview Calypsosun

The categories are shown in the tabs above the products

We recommend adding narrow signs to make sure visitors understand that more content can be found clicking on those tabs. Think of a drop-down sign like we use in our main menu:

Screenshot of the main menu of Yoast.com

The drop-down signs after each menu item

You’ll see that these signs will make it clearer to your visitors that they can click on the tabs. Make your site as user-friendly as possible, because the signals users provide are precious as Google uses these as well in their algorithm. Since SEO and UX are increasingly tied, it’s important to improve those user signals.

Using buttons to guide your visitors

Clear buttons can have a positive effect on the page path visitors take. You can guide your visitors to the pages you want them to go to next page. For example, you could add a button below each product which says ‘More information’. Doing this, you guide the visitors to the specific product pages and you make sure visitors understand that they can find more content related to the product by clicking on it. Now, the only way visitors see that there is a link behind the product on the current overview is by hovering over the image.

The product pages already have clear calls-to-action added: buttons which say ‘Where to buy’:

The ‘Where to buy’ button is a clear call-to-action

However, there is a way to increase the number of clicks on this button. We recommend changing the color of the button into a color that’s not in your color scheme. Doing this, the button will stand out more and might get more visitors to click on the button. Don’t you think the button catches your eye when it’s in another color?

We’ve changed the color of the button to make it stand out more

Of course, if you have a sufficient amount of traffic you can – and should – do A/B tests for these kinds of things. After an A/B test, you can easily conclude what color works best.

The last tip we want to give for the product page is related to the ‘Where to buy’ section. After clicking on the button, a screen pops up with the names of all the different resellers of the products. However, the only supplier which contains a link is Amazon and this logo is placed at the bottom of the popup screen. When visitors come to your website, they are already online, and they might immediately want to buy your products online. This means that it could be a good idea to guide them to Amazon first to give them the opportunity to buy your products directly.

Make sure your website loads fast

An important issue on the website of Calypso is page speed. Page speed is crucial in the eyes of Google and is considered to be a ranking factor in the future mobile-first index. The longer it takes to load a page, the less user-friendly the page is. Probably you’ll agree that it can be annoying if you have to wait too long for a web page to load. Visitors will bounce because of the loading times and this is a negative user signal, like we mentioned before.

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Testing the website of Calypso in the Google PageSpeed Tool we noticed a very low score: 18/100. This means you’ll have to start working on the loading times of the website. All possible improvements regarding speed are listed in the Google PageSpeed tool. We recommend starting with enabling compression and with optimizing images. Resolving those two issues probably results in the quickest and easiest increase in the page speed score.

To sum it up

We really loved reviewing the website of your well-known sun protection brand. You’ve created a very clean and clear website and with a couple of changes, you can improve your site’s SEO as well.

For your homepage, we recommend removing the slider and instead, add a clear image which reflects the website. Some introductory content will tell your visitors what the website is about and with a clear call-to-action you can guide your visitors to the most important pages.

To make those crucial pages even stronger, we recommend setting up an internal linking strategy. Make sure your internal linking reflects the hierarchy of the website to help Google understand the site structure. Besides that, using the right headings will improve the site structure as well.

And last, but definitely not least, working on your site’s loading times can be very beneficial. Increasing the page speed score will be valuable for both your visitors as for your site’s SEO. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Ask Yoast case study: SEO of an online shop’ »

In our Ask Yoast case studies we give SEO advice for websites in a specific market or industry. This time: the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects, the business site of an architect duo. The architects told us that they get great responses from their clients, but is their website optimized for search engines as well? We’ll dive into this architectural website to see what improvements can be made to enhance their site’s SEO.

First impression

The first page we land on is the homepage. We see lots of full screen images of the great work these architects deliver on top of the homepage. Though impressive, the images are shown in a slider. Loyal readers of our blog know that we’re not a big fan of sliders. Many experiments show why you shouldn’t use a slider on your website. Only 1% of your visitors will actually click on a slider, they slow down your website and lots of visitors ignore sliders because of banner blindness. Just to name a few.

Looking at this specific website, the slider images are very big as well. The textual content of the homepage is pushed down. We recommend showing some smaller images on top of the site, instead of the slider, and adding some clear introductory content just below these images. Try adding your USPs to the introductory content: Why should visitors choose you as their architect?

Lastly, by adding a clear call-to-action just below the introductory content you’ll make sure visitors can easily navigate to your most important pages. For example, you could think of a button which says ‘Get inspired by our projects’ or ‘Our services’: decide what the main goal of your homepage is. Just to show you the difference, we’ve created a mock-up of how the homepage could look like after following our advice:

Homepage example of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Beautiful images, too little text

On the ‘The Studio’ page, we notice a tab ‘What we do’. This tabbed content tells visitors what kind of work you do and what type of services you offer. Because of the relevancy of this content, we think these services deserve their own menu item. Visitors who want to know more about your team and your company may click on ‘The Studio’. However, they might not expect to find the services you offer there.

In addition to that, your services are great subjects to write about. Writing nice informational copy about your services will increase your chance of ranking for keywords related to these services. When you add sufficient relevant content, Google will understand that your website has content for people looking for services like yours. This means those people will easily find you. The more your content seems to fit to the needs of people who search for these keywords, the higher you’ll rank in the future.

Make sure you optimize one specific page or post for one subject/keyword. When you optimize one page for more keywords that are too different, it’s unclear for Google what the main subject of the page is. Pages that contain a lot of information about the keywords you really want to rank for, should become your cornerstone content pages. This blog post about cornerstone content explains in detail what cornerstone content means and this blogpost shows you how to incorporate cornerstone content into your website.

Lastly, we think you can improve your content as well by adding more copy to your project pages. Consider writing a nice text about the planning stage of the project, the building stage and the delivery stage of the project, for instance. In this copy you can add relevant keywords for your business. In addition to that, this allows you to internally link to your cornerstone content pages from your project pages. 

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Structure your text

When you decide to write more copy for your website in the future, make sure the pages and posts have a great heading structure. On your current pages and posts, we noticed that your logo is an H1 heading. However, the H1 heading should describe the main subject of a particular page on your site to help Google understand what the subject of that specific page or post is.

For example, checking ‘The studio’ page, we see the following headings on top of the page:

Headings Slemish Design Studio Architects

Your company name/logo has an H1 tag now, which means that your company name would be the main subject of this page. While in fact, ‘The studio’ is the main subject of the page. So you should change the H2 heading of ‘The studio’ into an H1 heading. Just remove the H1 heading from the logo on every page of the website. We’d advise to check all of your pages and posts and only add one H1 heading, that describes what can be found on there, on each page.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use headings on your site’ »

The right metadata

You’ll need to add relevant keywords to your page titles to help Google understand what your pages are about. Since page titles are still one of the most important ranking factors it’s important to optimize those to the fullest.

Looking at the page title of your homepage, we think you’ve added too many different keywords to show what your website is about:

Adding all different locations to your page title makes it unclear what your website is about. Moreover, the snippet doesn’t look very enticing to click on in the search results. This might cause a low CTR, or click-through rate. If you want to rank for all the different locations, adding separate pages with unique page titles and content for every location would be a better idea.

We’d advise to create appealing page titles and make sure they describe what can be found on that specific URL. For the homepage, use your USP and add a call-to-action such as ‘See our projects here’ to make people click on your page in the search results. Don’t you think a snippet like this will be more appealing to potential visitors?

On top of that, it’s important to be consistent in your branding. Add your company name to every page title. If you do that, people will recognize your page in the search results more easily, because of the brand name in every page title.

Add more relevant content to your blog

Having a blog can be very beneficial for SEO. Adding posts regularly makes it easy to add content about relevant keywords to your website. It helps you to start ranking for new keywords and to keep ranking for the keywords you already rank for.

Slemish Design Studio Architects have a blog and they add new posts regularly, which is great. However, it seems that lots of posts have little textual content. For example, this post only has two sentences:

Blog post of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Google could consider this post as a thin content page, which could hurt your website’s rankings. Since pages like these don’t add much value to your website, you’d better add more content or remove them from your website.

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

Create strong cornerstone content

Besides the benefits of adding more content about relevant keywords to a blog, a blog also gives you an opportunity to add more internal links to your most important pages and posts. For example, when you’ve created a separate page for the service ‘Sun Rooms’ you could write a blog post about new innovations for sun rooms. From that post you can add an internal link to the page about the ‘Sun Rooms’ service. Doing this consistently, that service page – which could be a great cornerstone content page if you add sufficient content – will become a better search result, according to Google.

In addition to internal links within a text, you can add a popular, recent or related posts section to the blog. The sidebar is often used to add sections like these. These links in the sidebar will give the posts they link to some extra link value.

Lastly, adding your blog’s categories to the sidebar will give your category pages some more link value too. Consider doing this if you want to rank with your category pages.

A fast loading website

The longer visitors have to wait for your website to load completely, the more likely it gets that some of them will ‘bounce’ back to the search results. A long loading time frustrates visitors, so they might leave your website before seeing any relevant content. Google uses bounce rate, among other things, to determine if a website provides visitors with a good result. When lots of visitors bounce back to Google’s search results quickly, that isn’t a good sign. You might understand that this can harm your rankings.

On top of that, page speed is an actual ranking factor. Google understands that a website with bad loading times probably isn’t the best result. Similar websites that load faster are likely to end up higher in the search results.

We’ve tested the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects and we found a score of 24/100. The score is in red and this means that there’s work to do! Just follow the advice Google gives in the page speed tool as this leads to both a better user experience, as well as better rankings. 

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To sum it up

It was a pleasure analyzing the website of this architect duo. You show some amazing work in the images on the website! Adding a cleaner homepage with a clear call-to-action could result in more conversions, so more actual clients. Also, specific pages for all your services could be valuable for both Google and visitors.

Basically, our most important SEO advice is: make sure Google understands what your website is about. This means you’ll need to write relevant content about keywords you’d like to rank for. Furthermore, optimizing your site’s metadata – like titles and meta descriptions – and headings would be beneficial. With internal links you can connect your content and give your most important pages extra value.

And last, but definitely not least, making your website load faster will really improve your site’s SEO and user experience!

Read on: ‘How to optimize your real estate site’ »