How do I determine what my cornerstone articles are?

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. 

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5 steps towards a pragmatic cornerstone approach

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.

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the complete guide’ »

Step 2: Choose the best post

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.

Keep reading: ‘5 tips for a readable blogpost’ »

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’.

Read on: ‘Why you should focus on long tail keywords’ »

Step 5: Linking from those tails to your head

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!

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Internal linking for SEO: Why and how?

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.

Link value

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).

ideal site structure pyramid

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.

Michiel explains this in detail in this post about linking to related posts.

Add navigational links

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

No-follow 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.

Anchor texts

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’:

Anchor texts
You can see the anchor text containing the link in this image.

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. 

Read more: The context of internal links »

Easy internal linking with Yoast SEO Premium

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.

Keep reading: Site structure: the ultimate guide »

The post Internal linking for SEO: Why and how? appeared first on Yoast.

What is cornerstone content?

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.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

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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.

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the complete guide’ »

Ask Yoast case study: SEO of a mom blog

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 ask@yoast.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?” 

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

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About the mom blog

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.

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

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.

Keep reading: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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.

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

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3. Optimize those long tails

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.

Conclusion

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!

Read on: ‘How to incorporate cornerstone content on your site’ »

Ask Yoast: Too many links in navigation menu?

Doing your internal linking well has quite a few SEO benefits. Connecting related posts with each other lets Google know that you’ve created content on various aspects of a certain topic. This can make you a stronger candidate to rank for that topic. But, can internal links also be detrimental to your site? Is it possible to create too many internal links, for example by having lots of links in your navigation? That’s what this Ask Yoast is about!

Jeroen Custers of Agrifirm emailed us with a question regarding navigation links:

“We have a top menu with a sub menu on every page of our online shop and in Google Search Console I see that some pages are linked more than 15,000 times. And our homepage is linked 25,000 times. Is this a problem?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Navigation links and SEO

Well yes and no. If your menu structure, overall, is so big and it’s loaded in the top of your page, then that might not always be the best idea for your SEO. One of the things that we used to do in the old days – that I still like to do sometimes now – is load the menu at the bottom of the page. Why?

Because that means that you’re showing the content first and you’re showing the links in the content to Google first, and then you’re showing them the entire menu. Not even thinking about page rank, this order of things makes slightly more sense to Google. And it might also make more sense to blind people and other people that visit your website. So, if you can do that, then that would be beneficial.

Also, if your menu is too big, I don’t always really appreciate that as a customer. But that’s something that you have to test with your customers and visitors. Investigate what works best and whether your navigation menu isn’t too big and cumbersome to work with. But that’s more of a UX question, than really an SEO question.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

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 ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

WordPress archive pages: the tutorial

Once your website starts growing and you continue writing blog posts, you’ll eventually end up with archive pages. These archive pages can be based on taxonomies, categories, custom post types and even dates. WordPress has built-in support for these archive pages, however there are some small drawbacks. In this post, I’ll explain to you how you can use these archive pages in a better way and ensure they actually add value to your blog.

Default archive pages

WordPress supports automatic creation of archive pages. This ensures that you don’t have to think about making them by hand. Sadly, these pages tend to only consist of a list of posts based on a category / taxonomy / post type without any further introduction. This means that your visitors are left stranded on a page without much explanation about what they’re looking at. The chances of your visitors finding what it is they’re looking for are terribly slim in this case and usually visitors will decide to leave that page immediately.

A simple solution to this problem: Add an “introduction” of some sorts to the page. A clear header can already greatly help out your visitors, but for extra important pages we recommend adding a description as well to better highlight the content that can be found on that archive page.

Before avidly writing these introductions, lets ensure they are properly displayed on the pages.

Learn how to structure your site well with our Site structure training! »

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Adding the introduction

Category, tag and custom taxonomy archives

If you want to add an introduction to a category, tag or custom taxonomy archive, you can easily create a custom template file to override the default ones. For example, you can create a `category.php` file in your theme to override the default template file. If you want more information on how the templating hierarchy works in WordPress, just look at this infographic before continuing.

In your newly created `category.php` template file, add the following snippet above the WordPress loop:

if ( ! get_query_var( 'paged' ) ) {
  echo wpautop( term_description() );
}

If you want to support shortcodes, try this instead:

if ( ! get_query_var( 'paged' ) ) {
  echo wpautop( apply_filters( 'the_content', term_description() ) );
}

The above code takes the title and description that you added in the WordPress backend for the category and displays it on the category archive page. This method also applies to tag and custom taxonomy archives.

If you use the Genesis theme, you won’t have to do any of the above alterations. Luckily, Genesis already has built-in support for this type of thing, so it’s as easy as ticking two checkboxes in the theme settings.

Genesis Archive Settings

Or if that doesn’t work, you can just add this to your Genesis child theme’s functions.php:

function yoast_term_archive_intro() {
 if ( ( ! is_category() && ! is_tag() && ! is_tax() ) || get_query_var( 'paged' ) ) {
   return;
 }

 echo '<h1 class="entry-title">' . single_term_title('', false) . '</h1>';
 echo '<div class="entry-content">' . wpautop( term_description() ) . '</div>';
}

add_action( 'genesis_before_loop', 'yoast_term_archive_intro', 20 );

Of course, you are free to expand the above function to add some more CSS classes to further style the output.

Custom Post Type archives

Altering custom post type archives is a bit trickier than overriding default tags, categories and taxonomies. You can add a new file called `archive-{posttype}.php` where you replace the `{posttype}` portion with the name of your custom post type. By then adding the following code to said file, you can achieve a similar result:

if ( ! get_query_var( 'paged' ) ) {
  $post_type = get_post_type_object( get_post_type() );
  echo '<h1>' . $post_type->labels->name . '</h1>';
}

Now for the hard part. Because custom post types don’t have any type of form in the WordPress backend, it is impossible to easily add a description to these custom types nor is there a recommended way of storing the data. One method you can use when you use a child theme in Genesis, is by expanding the `functions.php` file with the following code:

function yoast_cpt_intro() {
  if ( ! is_post_type_archive() || get_query_var( 'paged' ) ) {
    return;
  }

  $post_type = get_post_type();
  
  if ( genesis_get_option( $post_type . '-title', 'child-settings' ) ) {
    echo '<h1>' . genesis_get_option( $post_type . '-title', 'child-settings' ) . '</h1>';
    echo wpautop( genesis_get_option( $post_type . '-intro', 'child-settings' ) );
  }
}

add_action( 'genesis_before_loop', 'yoast_cpt_intro', 20 );

As you may have noticed, the code example uses two custom genesis options: `$post_type . ‘-title’` and `$post_type . ‘-intro’`. These can be defined in your Genesis child theme. You can read how to do that over here.

Preventing duplicate content issues

To avoid duplicate content issues, the previous code snippets make use of a simple check to ensure we’re not on a paginated page. The `get_query_var( ‘paged’ )` function call determines whether or not we’re on a paginated page.
If it detects the query variable `paged`, we can assume that this page is one in a series of multiple pages and thus should not display the description.

Since the introduction of rel=”next” and rel=”previous”, websites that have paginated archives and whom have properly implemented the `rel=”next”` and `rel=”previous”` attributes, will be receiving more visitors on the first page in the series. Nevertheless, you should not solely rely on this, but use it in conjunction with the `get_query_var( ‘paged’ )` option.

Styling the archive introduction text

To ensure that people actually read the introduction text, it’s very important to add proper styling to the page. After all, these introductions need to be made with humans in mind first, SEO second. Don’t fall in the trap of styling it the same way as your posts as this might result in visitors not understanding that the text is actually something entirely different from your content. A good example can be seen in the following screenshot:

Conclusion

Based on the information shared in this post, you should be able to make clear archive pages that help your visitors understand the content they are looking at. Additionally, you should be able to create these archive pages for custom post types. We look forward to seeing some of your beautifully styled archive pages.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Which redirect should I use?

As an SEO or site owner, you are bound to run into redirects. Whenever you delete a page, change your URL structure or switch to a new domain, you are going to have to redirect your URLs. You have to tell search engine robots that there has been a change in your URLs and that they have to go somewhere else, temporarily or permanently. Choosing a particular redirect might impact your SEO, so be careful what you pick. In this article, we’ll give a brief of which redirect you could use.

Reasons to use redirects?

If you’re maintaining your site on a regular basis, your tasks include the redirection of URLs. There are many cases when you might use a redirect, but the following will pop-up often. You’ll need a redirect when you:

  • Delete a page or post
  • Transfer your site to a new domain
  • No longer want to use www in your domain
  • Enable permalinks in WordPress
  • Merge websites
  • Change your CMS
  • Change your URL structure
  • etc.

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HTTP status codes

To understand how redirects work and how you can influence what a server returns to a browser, you need to know about HTTP status codes. A HTTP status code is a set number that a server sends to a browser following a particular request for a page. These codes may include 200, 301, 404 and 503, for instance. All codes serve a particular purpose. A 404, for instance, indicates that a page has not been found. A 503 means that the server is temporarily offline for maintenance.

If you want to maintain your site without fault, you need to know your HTTP status codes. Read up on them in the article HTTP status codes and what they mean for SEO.

Types of redirects

There are a couple of redirects that you’ll run into on a daily basis. These are the ones you should remember:

  • 301 Permanent redirect
  • 302 Found
  • 307 Temporary redirect

Not really redirects, but useful nonetheless:

  • 410 Content deleted
  • 451 Content unavailable for legal reasons

301 Permanent redirect

The 301 is one of the most common redirects; use this if you permanently want to redirect a deleted or moved page, or if you’ve changed something in your permalink structure. Using this redirect, you’ll tell search engine robots that this page is no longer available in this location and that it should no longer be indexed. If you don’t set a redirect correctly, chances are your visitors – and crawl bots – will see 404 error messages. That’s not something you want happening.

Since a 301 permanently leads visitors from the old URL to a new one, you should only use this if you’re sure that you’ll never use the old URL again. If you want to use the URL again, you need a temporary redirect. A 301 passes all the link value a discarded URL has accumulated over the years over to the new URL, so it causes the new URL gain or retain value. If you want to learn how to implement your 301 redirects with WordPress, you can read this post by Jimmy or just use the redirects manager of Yoast SEO Premium.

302 Found

A 302 is a fairly ambiguous redirect and is often used to make a temporary redirect. The code means that the requested content is found, but it lives under a different location. Why? It doesn’t say. If you want to make sure visitors get to an alternative page when visiting this particular page, and you want to reuse the URL in the future, you can use a 302.

Since this is a temporary redirect, it doesn’t pass link value. Hence, it’s possible to reclaim the URL with its value intact. Don’t use it when moving a site to a new domain or when you’re doing other large-scale renovations on your site.

307 Temporary redirect

302s are often used to create temporary redirects, but with the advent of HTTP1.1 307 has taken its place as a valid temporary redirect. A 307 explicitly states that the requested URL has been moved to a temporary location and will be back in a while. Since this request can change in the future, the request has to keep being made with the original URL. Use this redirect if you’re sure that the move is temporary and that you’ll still need the original URL later on.

Not really redirects, but still

Besides the traditional redirects, you’ll find two more that don’t really redirect. However, these are still relevant for your day-to-day maintenance work on your site. You could see 410 and 451 as a message from your server saying: Hey, there used to be something here, but not anymore.

410 Content deleted

One of the biggest problems on sites is the amount of 404 error pages. If you look at your readouts in Google Search Console, you are bound to run into a few. These must be fixed as fast as possible because no-one likes these errors: Google sees them as a sign of bad maintenance, and visitors get confused by them. 404 errors often occur when the requested page or post was deleted from the site.

You can use a 301 to redirect the page with the 404 to a relevant page, or the homepage, but in some cases you might prefer another way: tell search engines – and users – this page was correctly deleted with a 410 redirect. This way, they know that the page won’t return and can, therefore, delete the page from the index.

451 Content unavailable for legal reasons

Should you ever be ordered by a judge to delete a page or in case you get a notice and takedown request, you should give this page a 451 header. This way, you tell search engines that there was a post here and that you wanted to fulfill this request, but some legal reason told you not to do so. Find out how and why to make a 451 header, should you ever find yourself in that situation.

REGEX redirects

If you’re an expert SEO and you need to do complex redirections, you may need to use REGEX redirects. With normal redirects, you specify a single source URL and a destination URL. With REGEX – regular expressions – redirects, you can, for instance, make a single redirect to move entire groups of URLs with a keyword to a new location. This could save you a ton of time while working on a massive SEO project. However, you should only use REGEX redirects if you know what you are doing because they can easily break your site.

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Manage redirects with Yoast SEO Premium

Now, in all fairness: you are free to fix your redirects on the server or use other tools to help you. However, as a user of Yoast SEO Premium, you have the best possible tool to work with redirects at your disposal. The redirects manager of Yoast SEO Premium helps you to set the correct redirect. Whenever you delete or move a page, Yoast SEO will ask you how to treat this page: should it get a 301 or a 410? Or maybe a 451? The redirects manager supports 301, 302, 307, 410 and 451 redirects, all in an easy to manage workflow.

Working with redirects

Working with redirects is a daily job for many SEOs. In this article, you’ve discovered the different options to redirect pages and learned how and when to use these. Be careful when choosing your redirect! You don’t want to, for instance, 302 your entire site when you’re moving to a new domain. This will lead to serious problems down the line. Think about what you want to accomplish and pick the most appropriate redirect method.

Read on: ‘How to properly delete a page from your site’ »

My bullets are green, but my post doesn’t rank?!

The Yoast SEO plugin helps you to easily optimize the text of your post. This could definitely result in higher rankings. But unfortunately, green bullets do not magically put you on top of the search results. In this post, I’ll discuss a number of possible reasons why a post doesn’t rank, even though the text has been optimized with the Yoast SEO plugin.

Too much competition

In most cases, the reason a post doesn’t rank on top is because there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your blogpost for Justin Bieber, chances are high you won’t rank for that term.  Too many sites and blog posts have established themselves in this niche. Your site doesn’t have the authority that some other sites do have. And a large portion of the other sites in this niche are probably also capable of writing SEO-friendly texts. Green bullets won’t help you to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive.

Read more: ‘Should you blog about Justin Bieber’ »

If you really want to rank for those highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Blog about all the nuances and little variations around the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.

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Technical issues

If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, it could be that there are technical issues that prevent your post from appearing in the search results. Of course, when set up right, Yoast SEO takes care of all technical issues, but you could be running a plugin that interferes with our plugin. And we’ve seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site.

Hacked?

Always make sure your site isn’t hacked! If a site is hacked, your older posts will decrease in ranking as well. New post won’t rank as easily as they used to do. This will all evolve rather slowly, depending on how much crap is published on your site, without you knowing it. This really happens!

Keep reading: ‘WordPress Security’ »

Internal linking structure

A reason for your post not to end up high in the search engines , could be because other parts of your SEO strategy are not optimized. The structure of your site – the internal linking structure – is a very important aspect of an SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high (even though your content might be awesome) are lower. Yoast SEO premium could help you with your internal linking structure. If you want to improve your site structure, you should check out our site structure training.

Read on: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Few external links

If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if all your bullets are green. You’ll need some links from other websites. Google has to know your website exists. In order to get backlinks, you should reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. Use social media to get the word out!

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Green bullets, no ranking?

There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. If you optimized it correctly with Yoast SEO, the most common cause will definitely be that the competition in a niche is just too hard. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You just need to have a little patience. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!

Read more: ‘The temptation of the green bullet’ »

Yoast internal linking: the making of

A few weeks ago, we added Yoast internal linking to Yoast SEO Premium for English. We released the same feature for German earlier this week. In this post, I’ll explain how the earlier released Insights laid the groundwork for this feature, how we compose the list of linking suggestions, and why Yoast internal linking is currently only available for a limited set of languages.

So what does the internal linking tool do? While working on your post, our internal linking tool will give you suggestions on which posts you could consider linking to because they are about related topics. Linking to these posts will help you create a better site structure.

Insights

To know which posts we should show in the Yoast internal linking meta box, we first need to find out what all your posts are about. For this, we use the data we’ve already gathered for the Insights box, that you’ll find beneath the content analysis:

insights in yoast seo premium

But how do we get to this list of five words and word combinations? Let’s take a look at the steps we take when we analyze a post for its most prominent words.

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Step 1: Getting all relevant single words

First, we want to know which relevant 100 single words are most frequently used in the post. We therefore start by making a list with all words from the text. Next, we remove words like ‘the’, ‘you’ and ‘to’ from this list. Articles, pronouns, prepositions and other function words are simply too widely used to be truly relevant to a text. If we wouldn’t filter out words like these, all posts would end up with roughly the same prominent words. Once we’ve removed all function words, we save the 100 most frequent single words and move on to the word combinations.

Step 2: Getting all relevant word combinations

Combinations of two or more words are often more relevant and information-rich than single words, because they are more specific. That is why we also look for the most relevant two to five-word combinations. We filter these combinations as well, because combinations like ‘headlines to be’ and ‘to rank and your’ are useless. We only want to keep meaningful combinations like ‘optimize your site structure’ and ‘writing clickbait titles’.

Step 3: Filtering on word density

Once we’ve retrieved and filtered all one to five-word combinations, we filter out everything with a word density of over 0.03. This means we remove all combinations from the list that comprise over 3% of the entire text. The rationale behind this is that words that are too frequent are seldom genuinely relevant, because they tend to be non-specific. This also serves as an extra safety net to catch all function words that we might have forgotten to remove during the previous steps.

Step 4: Calculating relevance scores

The final step is calculating which words and word combinations are most relevant to the post. Based on trial and error, we came up with a formula that uses the frequency, length and percentage of relevant words of the word combinations that does just this.

Length bonus

We start with determining the length bonus. As shown in the table below, the longer a combination is, the higher is the length bonus it receives. This means longer, more specific word combinations will eventually get a higher relevance score than shorter, less specific combinations.

Word combination length Length bonus
Single word 0
Two-word combination 3
Three-word combination 7
Four-word combination 12
Five-word combination 15

Relevant word proportion

We also calculate which proportion of each word combination is on the list of the 100 most frequent words. This is the list we drew up during Step 1. For example, if one word of a four-word combination is also in the top 100 frequent words, the calculated proportion would be 0.25. The idea behind this is that the more relevant words a combination contains, the more relevant the combination probably is.

Multiplier

Next, we calculate the so-called multiplier using the following formula: 1 + relevant word proportion * length bonus. For a four-word combination with a relevant word proportion of 0.25, this would result in a multiplier of  1 + 0.25 * 12 = 4.

Relevance score

Finally, we calculate the actual relevance score by multiplying the number of occurrences of each word combination by its multiplier. If the four-word combination of the above example would have a frequency of 3, its relevance score would be 3 * 4 = 12. Once we’ve calculated all relevance scores, we sort the words and word combinations from the highest to the lowest relevance. To keep the Insights box clear of clutter, we only show the top 5. However, we save a maximum of 100 words and word combinations for further use. 

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Yoast internal linking

Once we have collected the most prominent words for all your posts, it’s time to compare them. To do this we take the top 20 prominent words of each post. However, for the sake of simplicity, I will illustrate the process with only five prominent words per blog.

Imagine you’re writing a post about Twitter Analytics. You’ve also written posts about Twitter Cards, homepage SEO and Instagram Analytics. You can find the top 5 prominent words from these blogs in the table below.

Twitter Analytics Twitter cards homepage SEO Instagram Analytics
Twitter Analytics Twitter cards homepage SEO Instagram Analytics
Twitter Twitter business name or brand Instagram
analytics Twitter account homepage followers
Twitter analytics dashboard account optimize your homepage analytics
Twitter cards data site name engagement rate

The more overlapping prominent words a post has with the current post, the higher its position will be in the list. Because the post about Instagram Analytics shares the prominent word ‘analytics’ with your post about Twitter Analytics, that post will show up in the linking suggestions. However, the blogs about Twitter Analytics and Twitter Cards have two overlapping prominent words: ‘Twitter Cards’ and ‘Twitter’. As a result, the post about Twitter Cards will end up higher in the list. Lastly, the post about homepage SEO doesn’t have any prominent words in common with the post about Twitter Analytics. For that reason we won’t suggest it to you.

We’ve decided to limit the number of suggested posts to twenty, because we don’t want to overwhelm you. Only the twenty posts that share the most prominent words with your post will be shown in the meta box. Check out what the result looks like in this video!

Language support

Now that we’ve built the above framework, we stand before the time-consuming task of making the linking suggestions available for languages other than English and German. Not only do we have to compose lists of function words for each individual language, but we also need to adjust the filtering for each of them. This has to do with word order differences. In English, for example, one describes an action with a verb followed by an object: eating cookies. However, in German, the object comes before the verb: Kekse essen (literally: cookies eat). As a result, we want to filter out English word combinations ending with a verb (he eats), but German combinations beginning with a verb (isst Kekse, literally: eats cookies).

The future of link suggestions

We’re happy to announce that we’ve released internal linking for German. But, maybe more importantly, we’d also like to let you know that you can help to make Yoast internal linking available for your own language! Please contact us if you’d like to help.



Read more: ‘Why you should use Yoast internal linking’ »

The sense and nonsense of XML sitemaps

Fact: if your website is set up the right way, you shouldn’t need an XML sitemap at all. You shouldn’t need to think about your category’s XML sitemaps or about including images in your post’s XML sitemap. But why do we keep talking about them like it’s the most important thing ever for SEO? It’s an almost daily subject in our support. That might be, because it’s a convenient list of all the pages on your website. It makes sense that Google is able to crawl all pages of your website if you list them on a page, right?

Google is almost human

Over the last years, we have been talking a lot about Google becoming more ‘human’, so to say. Google is quite good at mimicking the user’s behavior on a website and uses this knowledge in their ranking methods. If your website is user-friendly and gives users the answers they were looking for in Google, chances are your website will do well in the search result pages.

Structure is a sitemap within your website

In the process of setting up your website, you should look at the keywords you’d like to address and translate that to a proper site structure. Using, for instance, the internal linking tool in our Yoast SEO plugin, you are able to create structured links to all the pages of your website. That simply means that Google is able to follow all links and find all pages. That means you have set up a great infrastructure within your website for search engines.

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But why should I use XML sitemaps in that case?

Sitemaps, both HTML and XML, come in handy when your site structure and internal linking structure really aren’t that good, to be honest. When you’re dealing with a huge, messy inheritance of the previous owner, years of writing (more or less unstructured) content, or if you simply haven’t thought about internal links that much, your XML sitemap is probably a life saver.

In addition to pointing Google to all your content, XML sitemaps can also optimize crawling of your website by a search engine bot. XML sitemaps should include the last modified date. This date will immediately tell a search engine which pages should be crawled and which haven’t changed since the last crawl and can be excluded from this crawl. This is a huge benefit of using XML sitemaps.

Analyzing your XML sitemaps

In Google Search Console’s Sitemap section, you can find errors in your sitemaps. Pages that are linked there, but don’t work. There’s a huge list of possible errors in the Google Search Console Help documentation.

Apart from that, an important thing to analyze is the types of XML sitemaps you have. You can find these in Google Search Console and in the SEO › XML Sitemaps section in our plugin. In WordPress, sitemaps are created for post types and taxonomies, where sometimes you just don’t need an XML sitemap for all of these. In Yoast SEO Care, we find websites that have XML sitemaps for filter types (in eCommerce shops for instance), or for dimensions and things like that. If these ‘pages’ don’t make sense for the user, by all means, disable that XML sitemap in our Yoast SEO plugin. Only serve sitemaps that matter.

There is a reason Google included an XML sitemap section in Google Search Console. Google likes to know every page of your website. They want to see everything, to see if it contains interesting information to answer their user’s search queries. Your XML sitemap is like a roadmap to all the different POI’s on your site, to all the tourist attractions. And yes, some are more interesting than others. Last year, the XML sitemaps served by our plugin contained a priority percentage. Heavy users of our plugin sometimes requested an option to alter that percentage and we never got to that. We decided to remove the percentage altogether as it just did not work as intended – on Google’s side. That emphasizes even more, that it’s just a list of pages. A convenient list, nevertheless.

Should every website have an XML sitemap?

Perhaps I have already answered this question. Yes, I think every website should have an XML sitemap. Or multiple XML sitemaps to provide a lot of links in a better format. It’s a way to make sure search engines find every page on your website, no matter how much of a mess you make of your website. But you should really put your best effort in making that XML sitemap an extra and not a necessity.

If the crawlability of your website depends on your XML sitemap, you have a much larger problem on your hands. I really do think so. Hopefully, you can still go back to the drawing board, invest a bit in a good keyword research training. Restructure the site. Use our internal linking tool when going over your most visited pages again and insert the right links. And then, when most of your pages can be reached via your website itself, rely on that nice, comforting XML sitemap to serve Google any forgotten leftovers and help you to further optimize the crawling of your website.

Read on: ‘WordPress SEO tutorial: definite guide to higher ranking’ »