Optimizing your site structure should be an important aspect of your SEO strategy. Structuring your site is of crucial importance for your SEO. But how does one improve a site’s structure? Where do you start and how do you keep an eye on the structure of your site if your site is growing? In this post, I’ll teach you to improve your site’s structure in 4 simple steps.
We spent the past year thinking about how to translate the advice we give on improving your site’s structure into useful features for our plugin. This resulted in three new features (and we’re already thinking about new ones). The first feature we released was the internal linking feature. The internal linking tool helps you to figure out which articles you should be linking to. Our second feature on site structure, the cornerstone content analysis, will help you write awesome cornerstone content articles and get those articles in a central position in your linking structure. And the third feature, the text link counter allows you to check which articles need more internal links. Combined, these three site structure features are a powerful toolset for improving your site structure.
Step 1: Update and improve your Cornerstones
Your cornerstone content consists of the most important articles on your site. The ones you want people to read. The ones you want to rank with in Google. For all cornerstones, you should check the box in the snippet preview meta box.
Once you’ve checked that box, your content will be assessed more strictly by our readability analysis. You may wonder why we’re being so fussy about cornerstone content. The answer to that question is this: for cornerstone articles you should raise the bar, because they’re very important! They should be better than your other articles and therefore, demand more of your writing skills. 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 important things right!
Step 2: Link to those cornerstones!
The second step to improving your site’s structure is to ensure that blogposts surrounding a certain topic all link to your most important article about that topic. Use the text link counter to see whether your cornerstones have enough links. In your post-overview, you can select your cornerstone articles.
In our example, the Ultimate guide to small business SEO has fewer links than our other two ultimate guides. You should open the cornerstone post with few links and check the Yoast internal linking feature.
The articles our internal linking tool suggests are great suggestions to link from to your cornerstones. You should go to these articles one by one and add links to your cornerstones (that’s a bit of work!).
If you aren’t using Yoast SEO premium (and do not have access to our internal linking feature), use your internal search function and search for the keyword of your cornerstone article. The post that’ll come up in this search query should be linking to your cornerstones.
Step 3: Improve the structure of orphaned articles
Once you’ve improved your cornerstone articles and made sure you’ve added links from all of your posts to those cornerstones, it’s time to make sure that there are no orphaned articles on your site. Orphaned articles are posts or pages that hardly any other posts link to. They are hard to find on your site, both by your audience and by Google. In order to identify orphaned articles, you can use our text link counter. Sort the posts by the number of internal links linking to the post.
Posts with fewest links will appear at the top of the list. Open these posts and (again, if you use Yoast SEO Premium) check the suggestions of the internal linking tool. Using the tool, you can make a list of posts that should be linking to your orphaned posts. After that, you can open those similar posts and add links to your orphaned posts. You can also use the search function to find posts to link to your orphaned article.
Step 4: Improve those dead ends!
Every post should have suggestions for further reading. After all, you want people to stay on your website. Suggestions should always be on topic. People reading about ballet shoes are probably interested in ballet shoes. So, offer them more reading material on ballet or on ballet shoes, but don’t bore them with karate.
Open your post overview and sort your posts by the number of internal links in the post, using our text link counter.
Open the posts with fewest internal links. Add links to similar posts using our internal linking tool, in the same way as described above. It’s so easy and it will increase the time people spend on your site considerably.
Agreed, it is a bit of work. But if you set to mind to it, follow these 4 steps and use the Yoast SEO site structure features, you’ll be able to improve your site’s structure significantly. And that is most definitely going to result in longer visits by your readers and in higher rankings in Google.
Breadcrumbs are an important part of almost any good website. These little navigational aides not just help people visualize where they are on your site, but also help Google determine how your site is structured. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to add these helpful little pointers. Let’s see how breadcrumbs work.
When Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, Hansel dropped pieces of bread on the ground so they could find their way home if the two of them ever got lost. These breadcrumbs eventually became the model for the breadcrumbs we see on websites nowadays. A breadcrumb is a small text path, often located at the top of a page. On yoast.com, for instance, the path to our Yoast SEO plugin page is Home > Software > WordPress Plugins > Yoast SEO for WordPress. This breadcrumb immediately shows you where you are. Every part of that path is clickable, all the way to the homepage.
Breadcrumbs also appear in Google. If you use Yoast SEO or add the correct form of structured data to your site, search engines can pick up this data and could show your breadcrumbs in the search results. These provide users an easy to understand overview of where the page sits on your site.
Looking closely, we can distinguish different types of breadcrumbs. These are the three most common types of breadcrumbs you will find on sites:
Hierarchy based breadcrumbs
These will pop up most often. We use them on our site as well. Breadcrumbs like this will tell you where you are in a site structure and how many steps you can take to get back to the homepage. Something like Home > Blog > Category > Post name.
Attribute based breadcrumbs
Attribute based breadcrumbs appear after a certain selection has been made, for instance, while searching for a product on an e-commerce site. Maybe, Home > Product category > Gender > Size > Color.
History based breadcrumbs
History based breadcrumbs do what it says on the tin; they are ordered according to what you have been doing on the site. Think of these as a replacement for your internet history bar. These would appear like this: Home > Previous page > Previous page > Previous page > Current page. It’s also possible to combine these like Macy’s does in the screenshot below.
Advantages to using breadcrumbs
There are a couple of advantages to using breadcrumbs on your site. Let’s go over them quickly:
1. Google loves them
Your visitors like breadcrumbs, but Google likes them as well. Breadcrumbs give Google another way of figuring out how your website is structured. In addition to that, Google might use your breadcrumbs to show these in the search results. This way, your search result will at one become much more enticing to users. To increase the chance to get these breadcrumbs in Google, you need to add structured data or use Yoast SEO.
2. They enhance the user experience
People hate to get lost. When confronted with a new location, people often look around in search of recognizable objects or landmarks. The same goes for websites. You need to keep visitors happy and reduce as much friction as possible. Breadcrumbs can help your user experience since it is a well-known interface element that instantly shows people a way out. No need to click the back button!
3. They lower bounce rates
Hardly anyone comes in via the homepage anymore. It’s all organic search nowadays. That means every part of your site could be an entry point. You must come up with a way to guide these visitors to other parts of your site if the selected page does not meet their expectations. Breadcrumbs can lower bounce rates because you’re offering visitors an alternative means of browsing your site. Don’t you think it’s better to send a visitor to your homepage than back to Google?
How to add breadcrumbs
There are several ways of adding breadcrumbs to your site. Firstly, if you use a WordPress site, you can use one of the many breadcrumb plugins or just use Yoast SEO. If you use a different CMS the process might be different. It is also possible to add them by hand. If you want them to appear in Google as well, you need to use structured data in a way that Google understands. You can find more information on this in Google’s developer documentation on breadcrumbs.
Yoast SEO offers an easy way to add breadcrumbs to your WordPress site. It will add everything necessary to add them not just visible on your site, but get them ready for Google as well. To add breadcrumbs to your site, you need to add the following piece of code to your theme where you want them to appear:
This code can often be placed inside the single.php or page.php files, just above the title of the page. Some themes want it at the end of the header.php file. Try not to add it to functions.php since this could create problems.
While using breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel still got lost in the woods. Don’t let that happen to your visitor. Breadcrumbs provide an easy to grasp way of navigating for users. Visitors instantly understand how the site structure works. For the same reason, Google loves them as well. Use Yoast SEO to add breadcrumbs to your site easily.
In the 5.0 release of Yoast SEO we’ve added the Yoast SEO text link counter. This new functionality counts the number of internal links in a post and the number of internal links to a post. It sounds really simple, but it’s extremely useful and actionable. It’ll really make it so much easier to improve the structure of your site. Why is that? Why is site structure even an issue? And why is our new text link counter useful? Here, I’ll explain all about that.
The text link counter counts the internal text links in your posts. It consists of two counters: The first counter counts the number of links in your post and the second counter counts number of links to your post.
You can find the Yoast SEO text link counter in your post overview. In this overview you’ll see two additional columns. The first column shows the first counter – internal links in your post – and the second one shows the second counter – internal links to your post:
Site structure and SEO
The structure of a site is a very important aspect of SEO. After all, Google follows links. The result of Google following links is that the internal linking structure of your site determines how Google crawls your site. Posts and pages that are linked to more often, are crawled more frequently than post and pages with few (internal) links. Same goes for visitors: pages and posts that have many links referring to them, get more visitors. If you forget to link to a specific blog post, nobody (Google included) will find it.
An internal linking structure that makes sense is therefore crucial for SEO. That’s why, for the past year, we’ve added some really nice features to Yoast SEO Premium that’ll help you to keep your site’s structure up to date: the internal linking functionality and the cornerstone content checks. The text link counter, available for everyone in the free version of Yoast SEO, is another great feature that’ll help you to improve your site’s structure.
Why should I use Yoast’s text link counter?
Find articles with few links
The text link counter will allow you to assess the number of internal links each post receives and the number of links each post contains. This is important stuff. You’ll be able to instantly see which posts are hardly linked to at all. If these are important posts in your opinion, you can take action and link to these from other (similar posts). This will help your most valuable posts and pages to rank higher.
Actionable! Improve your SEO
You should use the text link counter because it is a very actionable feature. It allows you to really get started with working on your SEO. The text link counter indicates which articles have fewest links. These are the articles that need your attention! This feature really points to weak points in your site’s SEO. It tells you where to start optimizing.
Conclusion: Indispensable new feature
The new text link counter is an indispensable feature for everyone who takes SEO seriously. It’ll give you feedback on those articles that need attention in internal linking. Use our text link counter in combination with the internal linking tool. That’ll make it so easy to take your internal linking structure to the next level!
If you take your SEO – and users – seriously, you’ll be working on a kick-ass site structure. Setting up a decent site structure is rather hard. Maintaining a solid site structure if your site is growing is even harder. Mistakes are easily made. In this post, I will share 5 common site structure mistakes people often make. Make sure to avoid all of these!
Your most important articles – your cornerstones – should not be hidden away. Cornerstone articles are the articles that your most proud of, that most clearly reflect the mission of your website. Some people forget to link to their most precious articles. If an article receives no or few internal links, search engines will find it less easily (as search engines follow links). Google will regard articles with few internal links as less important, and rank them accordingly.
Solution: link to those cornerstones
Ideally, you should be able to navigate to your cornerstone articles in one or two clicks from the homepage. Make sure they’re visible for your visitors, so people can easily find them.
Most importantly, link to those cornerstone articles. Don’t forget to mention them in your other blog posts! Our internal linking tool can really help you to remember your cornerstones at all times!
#2 No breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs are important for both the user experience and the SEO of your website. And yet, some people do not use them. Breadcrumbs show how the current page fits into the structure of your site, which allows your users to easily navigate your site. They also allow search engines to determine the structure of your site without difficulty.
Categories should be relatively similar in size. But without even noticing it, people will sometimes write about one subject much more than about another. As a result, one category can slowly grow much larger than other categories. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a very large category.
Solution: split categories
If you’ve created a huge category, split it in two (or three). You should check the size of your categories every now and then, especially if you write a lot of blog posts.
#4 Using too many tags
Don’t create too many tags. Some people want to make tags really specific. But if every post receives yet another new unique tag, you are not structuring anything, because posts don’t become grouped or linked. So that’s pretty much useless.
Solution: use tags in moderation
Make sure that tags are used more than once or twice and that tags group articles together that really belong together. You should also ensure that your tags are in fact available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article. Tags are useful for your visitors (and not just for Google) to read more about the same topic.
A final site structure mistake people make is forgetting to visualize the site structure. Visitors want to be able to find stuff on your website with ease. The main categories of your blog should all have a place in the menu on your homepage. But don’t create too many categories, or your menu will get cluttered. A menu should give a clear overview and reflect the structure of your site. Ideally, the menu helps visitors understand how your website is structured.
Solution: dive into UX
In order to create a good and clear overview of your site, you should really dive into some aspects of User eXperience (UX). Think about what your visitors are looking for and how you could help them to navigate through your website. You could, for instance, start with reading our blog posts about User eXperience (UX).
Fix your site structure mistakes!
Site structure is an essential aspect of an SEO strategy. The structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. With your site’s structure, you can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engine. So, it’s important to do it right. Especially if you’re adding a lot of content, the structure of your site could be changing quickly. Try to stay on top!
Did we forget a site structure mistake that you encounter often? Please share it with us in the comments!
If you own a website, you have to think about the structure of your site, whether it’s a blog or a shop. Site structure is essential to help users find their way on your site and it helps your site to rank. So your site’s hierarchy needs to make sense to both users and search engines. When you’re creating one, you might wonder if your structure is too deep or too shallow. Let’s take a look at an example.
Milada Sejnohova, emailed Ask Yoast with the following question:
“How deep can I make the site structure of my blog? Can I make it for instance:
First of all, if you have a products section, then it’s not a blog, it’s a website.
And two, your structure (products and then anti-aging) is a perfectly reasonable way of setting up your site. As long as it’s useful to users and it makes sense, you’re okay. It has to make sense for someone who has never been on your site.
What you really should be thinking about is: if I come to your site and I’m on any page on your site and I know that something should be there, do I know how to get there easily? Because that’s determined in large by your site structure. So make it as easy to understand as possible!
In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 and the demands on your writing should be higher. Our cornerstone analysis will help you to raise your standards (and stick to it). It will be harder to score that green bullet. You have to do all 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 number of checks in both the readability analysis as well as the SEO analysis has been adapted in Yoast SEO 4.8.
How does it work?
If you’re working on a cornerstone, you should indicate so by checking the cornerstone box. If you checked the box, the default analysis will automatically change into the cornerstone analysis.
Which checks are adapted?
We adapted 2 readability checks and 8 SEO checks to come to the cornerstone analysis. You’ll need to use enough subheadings and make sure to write in rather short 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.
Most important adaptation in the SEO checks is the demand for a lengthy article. Cornerstones should be informative and complete. They just 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:
keyword in subheading;
meta description length;
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.
Check out the internal linking tool
Cornerstone articles are an essential aspect of your SEO strategy. You should make sure to embed these articles correctly into your site structure to get the most out of a cornerstone approach. The Yoast SEO premium plugin can help you do this. Our internal linking tool suggests which articles you should be linking to when you’re writing a new post. Cornerstone articles actually get a priority in the internal linking tool as these are the articles you want to be linking to:
Optimize your cornerstones!
So go ahead and start optimizing your cornerstone articles to make them rank higher. Use the new free cornerstone analysis in Yoast SEO as a guide to find out which aspects of the article you could improve. And if you want to take it a step further, get Premium to help you do some sophisticated internal linking. Good luck!
Cornerstone articles are those articles that are most important to your website. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually explainers; relatively long articles combining insights from different blog posts.
Perhaps you never thought about cornerstone articles before, even if you have your website for quite some time already. Still, you have a few articles that do really well in the search engines. How should you decide which articles are your cornerstones? And once you’ve identified your cornerstone content, what should you do to optimize these articles? Here, I’ll help you to determine which articles are your cornerstones and I’ll give some tips to optimize them to increase their chance of ranking.
Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research, after which you can produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But you’ve probably written tons of articles already. Follow these five steps to turn some into killer cornerstone content:
Step 1: Think about your keywords
You have to determine the essential keywords you want to rank for. Make sure you use the words your audience search for. Trying to rank for words nobody uses, is utterly useless. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the most ‘head’ or most competitive keywords you’re aiming for.
Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords closest to the most important, most competitive keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!
Step 3: Rewrite it
Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. Expand it and make sure it’s totally up to date. You should check it and expand that article regularly. Make sure that this article covers all the information that is relevant to that topic.
Also, make sure the article is incredibly nice and easy to read. Reading from a screen is challenging. Cornerstone articles tend to be longer than regular articles. You should, therefore, focus even more on readability. Think about the structure of your text, present topics in a logical order, write clear and short paragraphs.
Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants
Once you’ve chosen and improved your cornerstone content article, you should pay some attention to the blog posts that are about similar topics as your cornerstone article. These other blog posts should be optimized for long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re focusing on in your cornerstone article. So, if the keyword of your cornerstone article is ‘ballet shoes’, the keywords of the other blog post could be: ‘ballet shoes for kids’, ‘cheap ballet shoes’, ‘classical ballet shoes’ and ‘ballet shoes for men’.
An important reason why you should use a cornerstone content approach is because you do not want to compete with your own content for ranking in Google. That’s why you have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important one on your site. You can do that by linking from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!
Before your content can rank, it needs links. Google finds your posts and pages best when they’re linked to from somewhere on the web. Internal links also connect your content and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. They can establish a hierarchy on your site, allowing you to give the most important pages and posts more link value than other, less valuable, pages. So using the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO!
Did you know our Site structure training can help you figure out how to build the best possible structure for your site? You’ll learn all about cornerstone content, taxonomies, internal linking and much more. Try it out, you’ll love it!
Why are links important to Google?
Google uses links to find out what content on your site is related and the value of that content.
Relationships between content
Google crawls websites by following links, internal and external, using a bot called Google bot. This bot arrives at the homepage of a website, starts to render the page and follows the first link. By following links Google can work out the relationship between the various pages, posts and other content. This way Google finds out which pages on your site cover similar subject matter.
On top of this post, for example, you’ll see links to the ‘Content SEO’, ‘Internal linking’ and ‘Site structure’ tags. We make sure Google understands that the content on those pages is related to the content of this post by adding these links.
In addition to understanding the relationship between content, Google divides link value between all links on a web page. Often, the homepage of a website has the greatest link value because it has the most backlinks. That link value will be shared between all the links found on that homepage. The link value passed to the following page will be divided between the links on that page, and so on.
Therefore, your newest blog posts will get more link value if you link to them from the homepage, instead of only on the category page. And Google will find new posts quicker if they’re linked to from the homepage.
When you get the concept that links pass their link value on, you’ll understand that more links to a post mean more value. Because Google deems a page that gets lots of valuable links as more important, you’ll increase the chance of that page ranking.
Setting up an internal linking strategy
Internal links vs external links
Every website consists of internal and external links. Internal links connect pages and posts on your own website and external links connect your pages to other websites. In this post, we’ve focus on internal links and what they mean for SEO. If you want to get more external links pointing to your site, see our posts on link building.
It’s crucial for your site’s SEO to evaluate and improve internal linking strategy on a regular basis. By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands:
the relevance of pages;
the relationship between pages;
and the value of pages.
First: the ideal structure for your site
We always advise website owners to imagine their website to be a pyramid. On top of it is your homepage, below that there are some sections or categories, and further down there are individual posts and pages (possibly with subcategories in between).
If you do it well, your website’s menu should reflect this structure. In our Ultimate guide to site structure you can read how to create the best site structure for your site.
What is your most important content?
Then, you should determine what your most important content is. If you’re not sure, please read our article on cornerstone content. In short, it’s your best and most complete content; it’s about the core of your business. It’s the content you want people to find when they’re searching for a topics or products that you specialize in.
Because you want to let Google know that this is your most essential content, you need to add many links to it. There are various spots from where you can link to your cornerstone content. Here, we’ll give the most common options, from your post’s copy to your navigation.
Add contextual links
When you’ve written various articles about a certain topic you should link them with each other. This will show Google – and users! – that those articles are topically related. You can link directly from sentences in your copy or add links at the end of your post.
Moreover, you want to show Google which of those articles is your cornerstone: your most complete article on this topic. To do so, you have to add a link to the cornerstone in all of the articles on this topic. And don’t forget to link back from the cornerstone to the individual posts.
Contextual linking: an example
On our blog, there’s a cornerstone content article called ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’. We want this post to rank for all related search queries about [keyword research] in Google search results.
So we’ve added links from other relevant articles, such as ‘7 keyword research mistakes to avoid‘, ‘ What is keyword research‘ or ‘Focus on long tail keywords‘ to the main article. And we link back from the main article to these posts. In doing so, Google will understand that the ultimate guide contains most information about [keyword research]. So in the end, Google will rank the ultimate guide above the other, shorter posts about keyword research.
Add a related post section?
There are many plugins and modules that add complete related posts sections to your posts. If you use one, we recommend testing whether the related posts actually are related posts. If you’re not sure, linking to posts manually is probably best. That’s what we do on Yoast.com – we select a related post manually (or with a little help from our internal linking tool – more on that later) and place a link to that post at the bottom of the article.
Besides linking from topically-related posts and pages, it’s possible to make your cornerstone content more authoritative by adding links to it from the homepage or the top navigation. You should do this with the posts and pages that are most important to your business. This will give these posts or pages a lot of link value and makes them stronger in Google’s eyes.
Add links to your taxonomies
Taxonomies, like categories and tags, help you organize your site and help users and Google to understand what your content is about. If you have a blog it could be beneficial to add internal links to the taxonomies the post belongs to. Adding links to the category and tags helps Google to understand the structure of your blog and helps visitors to more easily navigate to related posts.
Add links to popular or recent posts
The last option to mention is creating internal links to the most popular or newest posts on your website. Preferably create these sections in the sidebar or the footer of your website to have them appear on all pages and posts.
As link value passes to these most popular/recent posts from many different pages and posts they really get a boost. Besides that, the posts will be easier for visitors to access, which will increase traffic – and more traffic is a positive sign to Google.
More on internal links
You also probably have links that aren’t important for SEO on your website. If you have a login link for your clients on the homepage, for example, you don’t want to leak link value to your login page – that page doesn’t need to rank high in the search results.
You used to be able to prevent losing link value to unimportant links by giving them a ‘no-follow’ tag. A ‘no-follow’ tag asks Google not to follow the link: so no link value is lost. Now you might think: “I’m going to ‘no-follow’ less important links to give the most important links more link value.” While this worked in the past, Google has become smarter. Now it seems that the link value for the whole page completely disappears when you add a ‘no-follow’ tag to a link on it. Therefore it makes more sense to have fewer links on a page instead of ‘no-following’ some of the links.
Note that adding a ‘no-follow’ tag doesn’t mean that those target pages can’t be found in Google’s search results. If you don’t want pages or posts to show up in the search results you should give them a ‘no-index’ tag as well. The ‘no-index’ tag means that Google shouldn’t render the page and shouldn’t give the content a place in the Google index to show up in the search results.
Once you have decided which links should be on a page and which pages should get link value, it’s important to use the right anchor text. The anchor text is the clickable text that visitors see. For example, the anchor text of the two internal links in the example below are ‘link schemes’ and ‘paid links’:
If you over-optimize anchor text you might hurt your website. And by over-optimizing, we mean keyword stuffing. Previously, you could give all anchor texts the same keyword and Google made your website rank higher for that keyword. Nowadays, Google is smart enough to understand that the content around the anchor text says more about the relevancy of a keyword than the anchor text itself. So make sure the anchor text looks natural in your copy: it’s fine to use keywords but don’t add the exact same keywords to every link’s anchor text.
Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps improve your internal link structure with its internal linking suggestion tool, which helps you to find related posts to link to. When you’re writing a post, you can immediately link to a related post by dragging the link into the editor.
The plugin also includes an option to mark your most important articles as cornerstone content, which tells the suggestion tool to show those cornerstone content articles at the top of the list, so you’ll never forget to link to them! Read more about using the Yoast SEO internal linking tool.
In the free version of Yoast SEO, you’ll also find a handy tool called the text link counter. This tool counts the internal links in a post and the internal links pointing to a post. This visualizes which posts could use a few more links or which ones should receive more links. This will all help you work purposely on your site structure.
To make it even easier to find posts that aren’t linked to, Yoast SEO Premium has the orphaned content filter. This feature allows you to see which posts and pages aren’t linked to at all, by other posts and pages on your website. Using the filter, finding important posts that need more inbound internal links is a piece of cake!
Did you know you can get a monthly or yearly subscription to all Yoast SEO plugins and courses? This way you can get the internal linking tool and access to the site structure training, for as long as you need. Learn more about the best deal for Yoast fans.
Go link your content
Without links, your content can’t rank! With a solid internal linking strategy, you can show which content is related and which of your articles are most informative and valuable. If you follow the guidelines in this post both Google and your users will understand your site better, which will, in turn, increase your chance of ranking.
Cornerstone content pieces are those articles on your website you’re most proud of. They reflect your business, communicate your mission and are extremely well written. These are the articles you would like to rank high in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually explainers; these articles combine insights from different blog posts.
Here, I’ll explain all about cornerstone content. I’ll tell you what cornerstone content is, why it’s important for SEO, how to write this type of content and how you should link from your posts to your cornerstone articles.
Which articles are my cornerstones?
Choose your cornerstones carefully. Think of four or five pages you would like someone to read if they first visit your website. These articles should be the cornerstones of your site. Which articles are most precious to you? Which articles are the most complete and authoritative? You should write cornerstone articles about the keywords you definitely want to rank for.
As of now, Yoast SEO will ask you to indicate whether or not an article is a cornerstone article. By marking articles as cornerstone, Yoast SEO can help you build a solid internal linking structure. Our link suggestion tool will give priority to the articles that you mark as cornerstone content.
If your website is enormous, you’ll have more cornerstones than if your website is small. You’ll probably write about more than one topic, so make sure to choose a cornerstone article in each category.
Why are cornerstone articles important for SEO?
Cornerstone content plays a significant role in any SEO strategy. It can be rather hard to rank for search terms that are very popular. A cornerstone approach could help you tackle those competitive search terms. If you write a lot of articles about similar blog posts, you need to tell Google which one is the most important. Otherwise, you’ll be competing with your content for a place in the search results. If you provide the proper internal linking structure between your posts, you can show Google which article is the most important.
Linking structure surrounding cornerstones
Cornerstone articles should appear very high in your site’s pyramid. Ideally, one would be able to click from your homepage to your cornerstone articles instantly. You should link all your other posts about similar topics to that particular article. Subsequently, you will write tons of new blog posts focussing on new angles of the topic of your cornerstone article. From every single one of those blog posts, you’ll link to your original cornerstone article. Such an internal linking structure will increase the chance of your cornerstone content article ranking in Google.
For instance, I write a lot of different posts about SEO copywriting. All these posts focus on a different aspect of SEO copywriting. One of my articles is my cornerstone article, in this case, the Ultimate Guide to SEO Copywriting. I will make sure to link from all of my posts about SEO copywriting to that one important cornerstone article.
Internal linking in Yoast SEO
In Yoast SEO Premium, we offer internal linking functionality. We analyze the text you are writing and use the prominent words in that text to determine which articles are of a similar topic. These are the articles you should be linking to. Cornerstone articles are treated differently in our calculation of internal linking suggestions. They are more important and will receive a higher value. To give these articles some visible weight as well, we place the cornerstone articles above the list of the internal linking suggestions. That’ll make it much easier for you to link to your critical articles.
Type of content of cornerstone pages
Cornerstone content should always be content pages. It could be a blog post, but you could also make a page out of it. The content should be updated very regularly. Cornerstone articles should be explainers, so these should definitely be informative articles. In your cornerstone article, you should aim to rank for the most competing keywords.
Cornerstone articles are usually rather long. Everything that’s important about a certain topic should be covered in your cornerstone article. That’ll ask quite a bit of your writing skills. Lengthy articles are usually hard to read, especially from a screen. Make sure to use sufficient headings. An index at the beginning of a long cornerstone article is also a great idea.
5 steps towards a pragmatic cornerstone approach
Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research. After that, you can produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But what if you do not have that much time? And what if you’ve already written tons of articles? Follow these five steps to make killer cornerstone content.
Step 1: Think about your keywords
You have to determine the essential keywords you want to rank for. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the ‘head’ or most competitive keywords. Be sure to carry out keyword research.
Step 2: Choose the best post
Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords surrounding the most important keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!
Step 3: Rewrite it
Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. Expand it and make sure it’s totally up to date. You should rewrite and expand that article regularly.
Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants
The other blog posts about similar topics as your cornerstone article should be optimized on long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re attacking in your cornerstone article.
Step 5: Linking from those tails to your head
You have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important one on your site. Don’t forget to link from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!
Yoast’s plans for cornerstone content
Site structure is important for SEO. Having a solid site structure means both search engines and visitors can effortlessly navigate your site to find what they want. To help you with this, we are currently working on many more features in Yoast SEO that’ll improve the structure of your website.
SEO can be a rather complicated and abstract thing. What exactly do we mean by increasing keyword density? How do you start with improving the structure of a site? That’s why I’m going to write a series of Ask Yoast case studies. In these case studies, I’ll take a look at a specific site (the owner knows about it of course :-)), and I’ll give some SEO advice. In this first case study: SEO of a mom blog!
Ask Yoast Case studies
Want Marieke to look at the content of your site? Send an email to email@example.com!
Improve the SEO of a mom blog!
In this case study, a mom blog’s SEO is the central topic. Lindsay Butler of One Beautiful Home asked us to look at the SEO of her many blog posts.
“I’m a mom blogger,” Lindsay says, “who has gone from a hobby blog to a business. I’ve started making real money with my site, and would love to continue its growth. I have hundreds of posts, but never paid much attention to SEO, other than selecting a keyword. So I have to go back to the beginning, and optimize all of my older posts, so they can rank properly. I have hundreds of posts. What is the best way to organize this process, so I can make sure I don’t screw it up?”
One Beautiful Home is an awesome mom blog. Being a mom of 4 myself, I really enjoyed browsing through this blog. I especially enjoyed all the printables and worksheets Lindsay offers. She really made her blog into a shop. Her writing style is entertaining and the subjects she chooses are great. I think this website has great potential, and, I have to say, I’ll become a regular visitor for sure! That being said, I’d also like to give Lindsay some advice for improvement.
At the end of this blog post, I’m going to answer her question. But before I come to that, I want to give some general SEO advice to improve the SEO of Lindsay’s website. Advice more blog and website owners could benefit from!
General SEO advice
Don’t use too many adds
When looking at One beautiful Home, you cannot escape the ads. Especially the ad below the banner is huge. The banners also load very slow, which is pretty annoying. Too many ads and banners can be detrimental for both the UX and SEO of your site. You shouldn’t put too many ads on your website.
Of course, I understand that these ads generate income as well. So, removing the ads could reduce the income of your website. That’s scary. Still, removing them will probably improve your rankings and the User Experience. That’ll definitely have a positive effect on the sales of your own products.
Site speed is low
The page speed score of the homepage of One Beautiful Home is very low (17/100 on desktop in Google Page Speed Insights). A low page speed is bad news for your SEO! The images on the homepage are quite heavy and should be optimized. Overall, you could reduce their size by 3.5 MB (76% reduction), which would, most likely, substantially boost your site speed.
After reading a first draft of this post, Lindsay already took some steps in improving both the speed of her site as well as the number of banners. That’s really awesome!
Optimizing for SEO after publishing
Let’s go back to Lindsay’s question. What SEO improvements should Lindsay start with, if she has hundreds of published posts she wrote without actively optimizing them? I thought of a step-by-step plan to help her get through this:
1. Do your keyword research
The first step of every SEO copywriting strategy is executing proper keyword research. To do so, you really have to get inside the heads of your audience. What words are they searching for? What terms do they use? You should use tools like Google Trends to check out which words are used most often.
After you’ve finished your keyword research, you should have a long list with competitive (head) search terms and less competitive and more specific (long tail) search terms.
For this mom blog, examples of search terms could be [debt free living], [pre-school education], [pre-school education printables]. Search terms as [parenting] are probably too competitive to rank for.
2. What are your cornerstones?
What are the articles you’re most proud of? From every category on your website you should choose one blog post (it could be a page as well) that really reflects your core business. Cornerstone content should be rather long and informative articles, in which you can describe all important aspects of the main topic. In these cornerstone articles, you’ll use the most competitive keywords. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you optimize your text. Check out the bullets and start optimize your cornerstones for the most competitive keywords.
Make sure to give your cornerstone articles a prominent place on your website. You should be able to navigate to these specific articles within two clicks from the home page.
Category pages could be great long tails too. I think that would be a doable strategy for One Beautiful Home. Lindsay should write an awesome informative category page about parenting, about debt free live and about pre-school education.
After you’ve optimized your most precious articles, you should dive into your long tail posts. These are the posts that dive into a more specific feature of a subject. Again, use our plugin to optimize for those long tail keywords. Optimizing lots of posts for slightly different long tail keywords is a great SEO tactic.
4. Link from the tail to the head
Last step of your SEO updating strategy: make sure to link from all of these long tail articles to your cornerstone article. That way, you’re telling Google: this is the most important content. In the end, that’ll be the article that will pop up in the search results.
A final question from Lindsay
After reading a draft version of this blog post, Lindsay had a final question:
“I have read so much about keywords, but there is still one question I cannot figure out. I write a lot about getting out of debt. A “main” keyword for that topic let’s say is [Debt Free Living]. I have 75 posts that relate to that keyword. How would I use that that keyword for all of those posts? I know I cannot duplicate the keyword, so how does someone do that?
I know that I need a page that keeps all of my content about this topic in one area, but how do I keyword each of the posts, so that I can rank higher for the debt free living “ultimate” keyword? Should I put [Debt Free Living: paying off student loans], [Debt Free Living: buying a used car], [Debt Free Living: paying off your credit cards] etc. for the individual posts, as they relate to the specific blog post?”
The answer to this question is: Yes, you should write lots of post about niche subjects [paying off student loans], [buying a used car]. I won’t use the [Debt-free Living: buying a used car] keyword, as I suspect nobody will search for that exact term. You should make a list of keywords surrounding your head keyword [debt free living]. Make sure these keywords are search terms people actually use in Google (you could use Google Trends to figure that out).
Second step is to write that cornerstone article and optimize it for your head term [debt free living]. We have written Ultimate Guide articles about key aspect of SEO. These are our cornerstone articles. Make sure that every long tail article about debt free living links to your most important article (and keep on doing that if you write new articles). That way you’ll tell Google which article about debt free living is the most important one.
To improve the SEO of this specific site, I would recommend removing a lot of the ads and improving the site speed. And, follow my four steps to optimize all of the text. I’m sure this website has great potential. It has found a niche within the mom blog niche. That’s great.
We understood from Lindsay that she already went ahead and started improving things like site speed and the ad display. So you might see some changes on her site already, if you go there. We’re excited to hear she took action immediately. Good luck with your website, Lindsay!