If you own a business in a small town near a big city, you’re probably a bit jealous of your competitors in this big city. The search volume for that city will most likely be significantly larger, and with that, the amount of potential customers as well.

So, is there any way you can still benefit from this proximity of potential customers? Perhaps if you also appear to be located in this city? You could, for example, easily use the name of a city in your URL, even if your business is actually located in the neighboring town. But how does this affect your SEO? And are there perhaps other reasons to avoid doing this? Let’s discuss in today’s Ask Yoast!

Vincent Ramos emailed us his dilemma:

I have a website with a city name in the URL, but my actual location is in the neighboring city, which gets smaller search volume. Our NAP is in the footer of every page with our actual address. Does it hurt my SEO that there’s a different city in the URL?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Adding a different location to your URL than your actual location

“Does it hurt your SEO? No, but it might hurt your visitors when they come and visit your site because they expect you to be in city A and you’re not. So, I’d always tend to go to the side of honesty: just say that you’re in the city that you’re actually in.

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You’ll find that actually being close to the center of the city that you want to be found in is very important in terms of local SEO. It’s very annoying, but that’s how most of the local rankings work. So, don’t lie, put your real location in your website URL if you can. See how that reflects on people and just say on your page, “We’re very close to ‘whatever the name of the city is’…”, because that’s the honest truth that usually lasts longer than any tricks around that. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Maybe we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘Ranking your local business’ »

 

The post Ask Yoast: True location in URL? appeared first on Yoast.

The WordPress.org privacy policy has been updated, hurray! While we weren’t able to remove all the long sentences, we hope you find the revisions make it easier to understand:

  • how we collect and use data,
  • how long the data we collect is retained, and
  • how you can request a copy of the data you’ve shared with us.

There hasn’t been any change to the data that WordPress.org collects or how that data is used; the privacy policy just provides more detail now. Happy reading, and thanks for using WordPress!

 

Your meta descriptions need to be shorter. I know, just a few months ago, we told you that your meta descriptions could be longer. Now we’re saying that they should be shorter. I understand the confusion. But Google changed its mind. And whenever Google changes its mind about something, we need to adjust accordingly. It’s almost like if Google says jump; we reply with ‘how high?’. But, for better or worse, that’s the way this SEO game works. Here, I’ll explain what Google has changed concerning the meta descriptions and what the consequences will be.

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What has changed?

While Google showed snippets with long meta descriptions (around 320 characters) in the past few months, the snippets are now back to their old length (between 150 and 170 characters). A few weeks ago, we published the results of our research in which we experimented with long and short meta descriptions on Yoast.com. All of the long meta descriptions we added to articles on Yoast.com, that were visible in the search results pages earlier, are now all replaced by short ones.

Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that Google, in fact, has changed the meta descriptions.

However, he does not say how long the new meta descriptions will be. He says that the length will be shorter, but variable. Research of Moz shows that most meta descriptions are about the same length as they were before Google decided to increase the number of available characters.

What should you do?

Don’t panic. If you’ve made your meta descriptions longer than 155 characters, I’d advise to make them shorter though. At least for your most important articles. In most cases, Google will not show the long descriptions anymore and you don’t want Google to cut off your meta descriptions in the middle of a sentence. So you’d want to rewrite these meta descriptions, making them fit Google’s new rule. If you decide to rewrite them, always keep in mind that it’s best to start with the most important information first. That way, if the length changes again, you’re pretty sure that that part won’t be cut off.

What about Yoast SEO?

If you go to the snippet editor in the Yoast SEO plugin now, you’ll see the old meta description length. By ‘old’ we mean the ‘new’ one – about 320 characters – which is outdated already. So we’ll change the meta description length. Again. It will go back to what it was: about 155 characters. This change is scheduled for the 7.6 release which will roll out in two weeks. And then, hopefully, it’ll stay the same (at least for a while).

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

The post Meta descriptions are going to be shorter again appeared first on Yoast.

Do you have a recipe site? If so, you might already be using structured data to mark up your recipes so they can get highlighted in the search results. Good work! But, Google recently made some changes that might make your implementation incomplete. It also expanded the possibilities of structured data for recipes by bringing guidance into the mix. The result? Google Home can now read your structured data powered recipes out loud!

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Structured data, recipes and Google Home

Google is betting big on voice search. While voice search is still in its infancy, there are signs that we are moving towards a future where we are relying much less on our screens. There are many instances where talking to your digital assistant makes much more sense than typing commands. What’s more, the AI in digital assistants will become smarter and more apt at entering into a natural dialogue with you. We’re talking about a real natural language interface here.

A lot is going on right now. Take for instance that Google Duplex demo, showing a digital assistant calling a hairdresser to make an appointment. Joost wrote a post about Google Duplex and the ethics and implications. If AI is this smart, we need to take note.

To get voice search and actions to work, Google relies on structured data. Structured data makes it immediately clear what all the different parts of a page mean so search engines can use that to do cool stuff with. Google Actions, the big database featuring things you can let Assistant do, uses structured data. For instance, here is Google’s page on recipe actions — which is the same as the regular structured data for recipes documentation. If you want to learn all about structured data, please read our Ultimate Guide to Structured Data.

New rules, new results

Earlier this month, Google announced a new and improved way of targeting people who search for recipes. By adding the correct structured data, you can get your recipes read out load. Google even said that by implementing this you might: “receive traffic from more sources, since users can now discover your recipes through the Google Assistant on Google Home.”

But, when throwing random recipes from some of the largest recipe sites in the world into the Structured Data Testing Tool, you’ll find that hardly any fully comply with these new rules yet. What’s more, even the implementation of the recipe Schema.org itself is widely different between sites. That being said, there’s still a lot to win, even for the big boys.

As of now, Google recommends four new properties in addition to the ones you probably already use:

  • keywords: additional terms to describe the recipe
  • recipeCategory: in which category does the recipe fit?
  • recipeCuisine: from which region is the recipe?
  • video: use this if you have a video showing to make the recipe

You’ll see the recommendations in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool:warnings structured data testing tool

Guidance: reading it out loud

How cool would it be if your Google Home could assist while you were cooking? Not by setting timers and the like, but by reading the recipe for you. That’s now possible thanks to guidance. In addition to the four new recommended properties for structured data for recipes, Google states that:

“To enable your recipe for guidance with the Google Home and Google Assistant, make sure you add recipeIngredient and recipeInstructions. If your recipe doesn’t have these properties, the recipe isn’t eligible for guidance, but may still be eligible to appear in Search results.”

To get your Google Home to pronounce the steps of your recipes correctly, you need to set the value of recipeInstructions using HowToStep or HowToSection. The latter, of course, should be used if your recipe instructions consist of multiple parts or sections. You can also keep everything in one block of recipeInstruction, but then you are at the mercy of Google as it has to try and work everything out itself. If you have distinct steps, please use HowToStep and/or HowToSection.

Hello keywords, we meet again

In a move straight out of 1997, we see keywords pop up again. Google now recommends using the keyword property to add context for your recipes. Now, this shouldn’t be confused with the recipeCategory and recipeCuisine properties. It is an extra way of describing your articles using words that don’t relate to a category or type of cuisine. We’ll just have to wait and see if the spammers can keep themselves under control.

Getting into that carousel

One of the coolest ways to discover content is the swipeable carousel you see when you search for certain types of content on mobile. To greaten the chance of your site appearing in this overview you can add an ItemList with one or more ListItems to your content.

Now, Google is quick to add that it might not be necessary to add this if you only want to appear in the regular search carousel. If you throw several well-known recipes sites into the Structured Data Testing Tool you will see that hardly any have added ItemList to their pages. Still, they rank high and appear in the carousel. If, however, you want to have site-specific entries — like your list of 5 best chocolate cheesecake recipes, or another type of landing page with recipes — into that carousel you need to add the ItemList structured data. There are several ways of doing this; you can find out more on Google’s documentation pages.

Applying structured data for recipes

If you look at Schema.org/Recipe, you might be starting to go a little bit green around the gills. Where do you even start? It’s massive! These are all the properties you could add, but that doesn’t mean that you should. Google requires just a couple but recommends a lot more.

These are the required properties:

  • @context: set to Schema.org
  • @type: set to Recipe
  • image: can be a URL or a ImageObject
  • name: name of the dish

That’s it! But, as you might have guessed, this won’t get you very far. By providing Google with as much data about your recipe as possible, you increase the chance that Google ‘gets’ your recipe. After that, it can apply the rich results and corresponding Actions accordingly.

Here are the recommended properties:

  • aggregateRating: average review score for this recipe
  • author: who made it? Use Schema.org/Person
  • cookTime: the time it takes to cook the recipe
  • datePublished: when was the recipe published?
  • description: a description of the recipe
  • keywords: terms to describe the recipe
  • nutrition.calories: the number of calories. Use Schema.org/Energy
  • prepTime: how long do the preparations take?
  • recipeCategory: is it breakfast, lunch, dinner or something else?
  • recipeCuisine: where in the world is the recipe from originally?
  • recipeIngredient: every ingredient you need to make the recipe. This property is required if you want Google Home to read your recipe out loud.
  • recipeInstructions: mark up the steps with HowToStep or HowToSection with embedded ItemistElement with a HowToStep.
  • recipeYield: for how many servings is this?
  • review: add any review you might have
  • totalTime: how long does it all take?
  • video: add a video showing how to make the recipe, if applicable

To show you how this all translates to code, we need an example. So, here’s Googles example recipe in JSON-LD format. You’ll see that it is all obvious and pretty easy to understand. If you want to implement JSON-LD code on your page, Google Tag Manager might be your best bet.

<!doctype html>
<html amp lang="en">
  <head>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>Party Coffee Cake</title>
    <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.ampproject.org/recipe-metadata.html" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,minimum-scale=1,initial-scale=1">
    <script type="application/ld+json">
     {
      "@context": "http://schema.org/",
      "@type": "Recipe",
      "name": "Party Coffee Cake",
      "image": [
        "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg",
        "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg",
        "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg"
        ],
      "author": {
        "@type": "Person",
        "name": "Mary Stone"
      },
      "datePublished": "2018-03-10",
      "description": "This coffee cake is awesome and perfect for parties.",
      "prepTime": "PT20M",
      "cookTime": "PT30M",
      "totalTime": "PT50M",
      "keywords": "cake for a party, coffee",
      "recipeYield": "10 servings",
      "recipeCategory": "Dessert",
      "recipeCuisine": "American",
      "nutrition": {
        "@type": "NutritionInformation",
        "calories": "270 calories"
         },
      "recipeIngredient": [
        "2 cups of flour",
        "3/4 cup white sugar",
        "2 teaspoons baking powder",
        "1/2 teaspoon salt",
        "1/2 cup butter",
        "2 eggs",
        "3/4 cup milk"
       ],
      "recipeInstructions": [
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Mix in the butter, eggs, and milk."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Spread into the prepared pan."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Allow to cool."
         }
      ],
      "review": {
        "@type": "Review",
        "reviewRating": {
          "@type": "Rating",
          "ratingValue": "4",
          "bestRating": "5"
        },
        "author": {
          "@type": "Person",
          "name": "Julia Benson"
        },
        "datePublished": "2018-05-01",
        "reviewBody": "This cake is delicious!",
        "publisher": "The cake makery"
        },
      "aggregateRating": {
      "@type": "AggregateRating",
        "ratingValue": "5",
        "ratingCount": "18"
  },
  "video": [
     {
    "name": "How to make a Party Coffee Cake",
    "description": "This is how you make a Party Coffee Cake.",
    "thumbnailUrl": [
      "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg",
      "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg",
      "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg"
     ],
    "contentUrl": "http://www.example.com/video123.flv",
    "embedUrl": "http://www.example.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123",
    "uploadDate": "2018-02-05T08:00:00+08:00",
    "duration": "PT1M33S",
    "interactionCount": "2347",
    "expires": "2019-02-05T08:00:00+08:00"
   }
  ]
}
</script>
  </head>
  <body>
    <h1>The best coffee cake you’ll ever try!</h1>
  </body>
</html>

Conclusion: Got a recipe site? Add structured data now!

Recipe sites are in a very cool position. It seems that they get everything first. By marking up your recipes with structured data, you can get Google to do a lot of cool stuff with your recipes. You can get them to pronounce it via Google Home or try to find other ways of interacting with them with Actions via the Assistant database. And this is probably only the beginning.

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »

The post Structured data for recipes: getting content read out loud appeared first on Yoast.

Internal linking should be one of the key focus points in your SEO strategy. It’s actually my favorite aspect of SEO because it’s so very actionable. The Yoast SEO Premium plugin helps you set up a great internal linking structure very easily. And today, you get a 20% discount on the Yoast SEO Premium plugin! So let me explain the importance of great internal linking structure. Learn how to get your site indexed by Google AND get a good ranking.

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Context is the SEO word of 2018

A lot of information about how Google works comes from patents. Whenever Google comes up with new technology, the next step is oftsonen to claim a patent. Studying these patents gives us lots of information about what Google is up to. These days, what keeps coming up is context. Bill Slawski, an SEO veteran, calls context the search term of the year.

In my opinion, Bill is right. Context is what helps Google make sense of the world around us. For instance, Google does not rank a text on the term ‘ballet shoes’ just because you use the word ‘ballet shoes’ in every other sentence. Google is getting better and better at figuring out what a text is about and how to fit it in the grand scheme of things. Google can read texts, so understanding of the context, synonyms, related words and concepts becomes critical. My post about related entities contains some more thoughts on this matter.

The context of internal links is important

The context in which we embed internal links is also becoming increasingly important. Google can determine whether or not links are useful to a reader, on the base of the text in which we’ve embedded these links. Relevant links are helpful for the user. Links that make sense will help with rankings of a post. If a post has lots of good contextual links from other pages, it will have a higher chance of ranking. So the context of a link, for example, the sentence in which we use a link is crucial for Google to establish whether or not a particular page should rank well in the search results pages. Text links within blog posts are, therefore, more valuable than random links in a footer.

Internal linking matters in two ways

Internal linking is imperative for SEO because of two reasons. For one, it is essential to get your site indexed. As Google crawls links, you’ll need links to every post and page on your site to make sure that Google comes around often enough to get your site saved in the index. Two, and more importantly, you need internal links to get your site ranked well. And that’s where the context of the internal links comes in. Links embedded in a meaningful context will help rank your site more than links in the footer of a text.

Internal links are a necessity to get your site indexed. The context of internal links is essential to get your site ranked — and how it gets ranked.

Yoast SEO helps with internal linking

Linking related content can seem daunting, especially if you’ve written a lot of articles. The internal linking tool of Yoast SEO Premium will help you set up an excellent, coherent and contextual internal linking structure. Our internal linking tool analyzes your texts and uses word analysis to determine which blog posts and articles are on similar topics. We show these suggestions to you in the sidebar, making it very easy to add related text links to these articles in your blog post. We have a couple of posts on why you should use it and how to use the internal linking tool.

Get started right away!

Improving your internal linking structure isn’t that hard. You can start enhancing your site today! Yoast SEO Premium will analyze all of your blog posts and makes suggestions for internal links to add to your posts. So, stop making excuses and get to it! And if you buy Yoast SEO Premium today, you’ll benefit from a 20% discount!

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

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We regularly receive questions about category pages and similar pages. It seems some of you are unsure of how to properly implement these. And sure, it’s good to think about this, as pages like category or tag pages can be thin content, if you do nothing to improve them. But you can also use these pages to your advantage!

It’s a good idea to give your category and tag pages some TLC, so there’s sufficient content on them. For product category pages, that means adding some text about that particular type of product, for example. So, what about food blogs? What should you do with your category and tag pages to help your recipes rank as best they can?

Analida Braeger emailed us her question on the subject:

Is it true that leaving tags, categories and paginated content open on a food blog hurts the ability of existing recipes to rank effectively? Should these be blocked with a ‘noindex, follow’ robots tag?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Should you noindex tags and categories on food blogs?

“No, don’t noindex those pages. Category and tag pages are very important pages that you want crawled a lot. As soon as you start noindexing them, Google will crawl them less and less. So you shouldn’t do that.

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What you should do is optimize your category and tag pages for terms that are groups. So, if you have recipes, then you have groups of recipes too, and you should optimize those category and tag pages for those terms.

You should make sure that, for instance, for pasta recipes, your category page for that is good enough for people to land on. So, you should improve on those pages and make them better landing pages to land on from the search results and then they will get traffic for terms that are broader than the average recipe, and they’d be perfect pages. So, don’t noindex follow them, instead improve them. Good luck.”

Read on: ‘Using category and tag pages for SEO’ »

The post Ask Yoast: Noindexing tags, categories and paginated content on a foodblog appeared first on Yoast.

WordPress 4.9.6 is now available. This is a privacy and maintenance release. We encourage you to update your sites to take advantage of the new privacy features.

A decorative header featuring the text "GDPR" and a lock inside of a blue shield, on multicolor green background.

Privacy

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect on May 25. The GDPR requires companies and site owners to be transparent about how they collect, use, and share personal data. It also gives individuals more access and choice when it comes to how their own personal data is collected, used, and shared.

It’s important to understand that while the GDPR is a European regulation, its requirements apply to all sites and online businesses that collect, store, and process personal data about EU residents no matter where the business is located.

You can learn more about the GDPR from the European Commission’s Data Protection page.

We’re committed to supporting site owners around the world in their work to comply with this important law. As part of that effort, we’ve added a number of new privacy features in this release.

Comments

A screenshot of a comment form, where the new "Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment" checkbox is featured.

Logged-out commenters will be given a choice on whether their name, email address, and website are saved in a cookie on their browser.

Privacy Policy Page

A screenshot of the new Privacy Settings page.

Site owners can now designate a privacy policy page. This page will be shown on your login and registration pages. You should manually add a link to your policy to every page on your website. If you have a footer menu, that’s a great place to include your privacy policy.

In addition, we’ve created a guide that includes insights from WordPress and participating plugins on how they handle personal data. These insights can be copied and pasted into your site’s privacy policy to help you get started.

If you maintain a plugin that collects data, we recommend including that information in WordPress’ privacy policy guide. Learn more in our Privacy section of the Plugin Handbook.

Data Handling

A screenshot of the new Export Personal Data tools page. Several export requests are listed on the page, to demonstrate how the new feature will work.

Data Export

Site owners can export a ZIP file containing a user’s personal data, using data gathered by WordPress and participating plugins.

Data Erasure

Site owners can erase a user’s personal data, including data collected by participating plugins.

Howdy,

A request has been made to perform the following action on your account:

Export Personal Data

To confirm this, please click on the following link:
http://.wordpress.org/wp-login.php?action=confirmaction…

You can safely ignore and delete this email if you do not want to
take this action.

This email has been sent to you@example.com.

Regards,
Your friends at WordPress
http://wordpress.org

Site owners have a new email-based method that they can use to confirm personal data requests. This request confirmation tool works for both export and erasure requests, and for both registered users and commenters.


Maintenance

95 updates were made in WordPress 4.9.6. In addition to the above, particularly of note were:

  • “Mine” has been added as a filter in the media library.
  • When viewing a plugin in the admin, it will now tell you the minimum PHP version required.
  • We’ve added new PHP polyfills for forwards-compatibility and proper variable validation.
  • TinyMCE was updated to the latest version (4.7.11).

This post has more information about all of the issues fixed in 4.9.6 if you’d like to learn more.

Download WordPress 4.9.6 or venture over to Dashboard → Updates and click “Update Now.” Sites that support automatic background updates are already beginning to update automatically.

Please note that if you’re currently on WordPress 4.9.3, you should manually update your site immediately.


Thank you to everyone who contributed to WordPress 4.9.6:
Aaron D. Campbell, Aaron Jorbin, abdullahramzan, Adam Silverstein, Alain Schlesser, allendav, Andrea Fercia, Andrea Middleton, Andrew Ozz, Ayesh Karunaratne, Birgir Erlendsson (birgire), bridgetwillard, Burlington Bytes, Chetan Prajapati, claudiu, Corey McKrill, Daniel Bachhuber, David Herrera, Dominik Schilling (ocean90), Ella Van Dorpe, Eric Daams, Fernando Claussen, Garrett Hyder, Gary Pendergast, Heather Burns, Helen Hou-Sandi, herregroen, Ian Dunn, ibelanger, imath, Jb Audras, Jeffrey Paul, Jeremy Felt, Jesper V Nielsen, JJJ, Joe McGill, John Blackbourn, Jonathan Desrosiers, Josepha, jrf, Kåre Mulvad Steffensen, Laken Hafner, laurelfulford, lbenicio, macbookandrew, Marius L. J., Mel Choyce, Michael Nelson, Mike Jolley, Pascal Casier, pbrocks, postphotos, Prashant Baldha, PressTigers, programmin, Robin Cornett, Sergey Biryukov, Stefano Lissa, Stephane Daury (stephdau), Subrata Sarkar, Tammie Lister, teddytime, thomasplevy, Timothy Jacobs, Tobias Zimpel, Tom J Nowell, Tor-Bjorn Fjellner, Towhidul Islam, voneff, William Earnhardt, and Xenos (xkon) Konstantinos.

I bet you’ve reread the title at least several times. Did I really just announce a blog post on why you should quit your blog? Yes. Yes, I did. Who am I to tell you to quit blogging? And before you tell me that I should be the one to quit my blog, let me tell you: no, I’m not. In this post, I will share five reasons why you should quit blogging.

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Reason number 1: You can’t write

You think that you are a terrible writer. No one wants to read your blogs, and if you look at the blog posts you wrote a few months ago, you cringe. You have convinced yourself you absolutely cannot write. So put yourself (and all your readers, they’ll thank you) out of their misery. Just quit.

Unless…

… you love to write. Unless it’s just your inner critic talking. In most cases, it’s just not true. And even if it’s true, how can you grow to be a great writer if you don’t try? We somehow have forgotten that to learn, we have to try. We have to fall and stand up again. No child ever just stopped trying to get up after it fell again and again. It just got back up to try again. The first baby steps couldn’t have been successful if the child thought it couldn’t do it after failing the first time. So grab your notebook or your laptop and get to it. Make mistakes. And then find a way to do it right and improve.

Reason number 2: You don’t have an audience

Who are you writing for if you don’t have any visitors? Honestly, what a waste of time. You could spend your time doing something useful, such as making money by getting a real job. Maybe you should do chores around the house, get the groceries or do some cleaning.

I hope you’re writing for yourself. I hope you’re writing to ease the writer inside of you. And I hope you write because you have a story to get out of there. Above all, I hope you realize that if you keep your writings to yourself, no one will ever read it. And if you don’t have an audience yet, you could try and work on your SEO. Whatever the reason is you do not have many visitors just yet, find out what it is and get that audience.

Even more important: cherish the small audience you might have right now. If it’s your spouse, your mother, your best friend or someone you don’t know: if they take the time to tell you they like it, you’ve got an audience. It starts with just one reader.

Reason 3: There are a lot of blogs already, yours is nothing new

My younger sister told me this when I started my blog about life as a mother. She said: ‘Aren’t there already a lot of blogs like yours out there? Why do you think you’re so special?’ She hadn’t even seen my blog yet, hadn’t even read my articles. And I doubt she even remembers she told me this because last week she told me: ‘Oh, I read this and that on your blog. That’s insane!’

I remember feeling insecure when she told me I wasn’t unique, but I continued to blog anyway. I told her she knew nothing. And no, I’m not the biggest blogger out there (if only), I’m not even mildly average. My blog isn’t even big enough to be considered for so-called ‘influencer programs.’ And although I have goals to become big, my goal to be authentic is bigger. So my blog is something new because it’s mine. Your blog is just as special and authentic.

Reason 4: It’s lonely

You’re just sitting there, behind your computer, writing stuff no one reads for a blog that makes no money. You must be so incredibly lonely.

I’ve met a lot of bloggers the past year. On blogger conferences, through Twitter, through Facebook groups, through Pinterest and blogs of bloggers I admire. If you feel alone as a blogger, find a local (WordPress) meetup, join Facebook groups, Twitter discussions or just send an email to a blogger you admire. Writing can be a lonely hobby, but it’s not necessary.

Reason 5: You’re giving away your information. For free

Are you out of your mind, or what? Are you just giving all your information away, for free? How will you make money? I mean, why would you give stuff away for free?

I don’t know why we do this either. It must be in our nature to help people.

And if you didn’t already know, bloggers can surely monetize their blog.

I love to write. I write a lot. Therefore I am a writer. I’m not making money with my blog. I’m losing money on advertising, hosting, a theme and premium plugins, but I don’t care for now. It’s my hobby. It’s almost volunteering, but on my terms.

Honestly, did you think I was serious about quitting blogging? I’ve started this series to encourage you to pick up blogging too. I’m encouraging friends to start blogs and we have written guides how to start or continue blogging. So, if anyone ever tells you again you should quit blogging, tell them: Nope. And throw this page in their face.

Read more: ‘Caroline’s Corner: Finding inspiration for your next blog post’ »

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Perhaps you heard about Google Duplex? You know, the artificial assistant that called a hairdresser to make an appointment? Fascinating technology, but what is it exactly? And does it affect search or SEO? In this post, I’ll explain what Google Duplex is. And, I’ll raise some ethical issues I have with it. Finally, I will go into the consequences of Google Duplex for SEO.

What is Google Duplex?

Google Duplex is an experimental new technology that Google demoed at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference. This technology allows Google to mimic human conversation. Google is quick to say that at this point, it’s only trained for specific fields.

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Google showed a video in which a robot makes an appointment for a hairdressers appointment by calling that hairdresser and having an actual conversation. If you haven’t seen a demo of it yet, check out this video first.

Is it good?

Last Wednesday at the Google I/O conference, John Hennessy said about Google Duplex: “In the domain of making appointments, it passes the Turing test.” The Turing test is a test that determines whether a human is indistinguishable from a robot. This means that the robot used in Google Duplex is not distinguishable from an actual human being.

John Hennessy is the chairman of the board of Google’s parent company Alphabet. He is also quite a hero in the field of computer science. When he says something like that — even about his own company — it’s worth thinking about.

John Hennessy was pretty quick to point out that it passes in only one specific field: the task of booking appointments. “It doesn’t pass it in general terms, but it passes in that specific domain. And that’s really an indication of what’s coming.” Which gets us to ethics.

The ethics of AI that’s this good

When you have an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can interact with people, as Google Duplex can, you need to think about ethics. Luckily, people have been thinking about precisely these kinds of ethics problems for a long time. The first set of rules you’ll run into when you search around ethics concerning AI are Isaac Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics, introduced in his 1942 (!) short story Runaround:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

While this laid the groundwork for almost all of the science fiction around robots, most of that doesn’t necessarily immediately come into play now. But since then, people have started adding on the three laws of robotics. The most well-known “fourth law of robotics” was added by novelist Lyuben Dilov, in his book Icarus’s Way. This law is as follows:

A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.

Now, go back to the video linked above. Nowhere does that assistant state it’s a bot. In fact, it has mannerisms that make it very human. I think that’s wrong and I think people were rightly calling Google out on that. Google has already stated that they will change that. I’m curious how exactly. Let’s say I am skeptical. Google does not always communicate their intentions clearly. I mean: Google says it discloses which results are ads in its search results and which results aren’t. However, most ‘non-tech’ people don’t know what exactly is an ad and what is an organic result.  We’ll have to wait and see, or maybe, hear.

Security implications

In the wrong hands, this type of technology is incredibly scary. Did you know that it now takes less than 1 minute of recorded audio to reasonably accurately simulate somebody’s voice? Combine that with the inferior systems of security we currently have for phone conversations with, for instance, banks, and you have a potential disaster on your hands.

What will Google Duplex be used for?

The examples we’ve seen so far indicate that Google Duplex can be used to make straightforward phone calls – to plan meetings and make reservations. These examples fit the personal assistant purpose for which Google Assistant is promoted. But if an AI becomes this good at consumer interaction, of course, businesses will want to use it to receive phone calls as well. They could use it for helpdesks and other types of calls that we now task entire call centers with.

Future use of Google Duplex?

It is hard to say when Google Duplex will be used on a large scale. This might not happen next year or even the year after. But it’s definitely going faster than most people outside of the tech bubble realize. If Google Duplex can be trained to make a restaurant booking, it can also be trained to take your new credit card application. And, since it is an AI, it would be much faster and less error-prone than a human would be at performing your credit check.

Look at a Google Duplex-like system for receiving calls as a nice extension to the phone call conversion tracking system Google already has. Google could indeed take your credit card application. Or, without even all that much training, do the other side of the second example call in the video above and take the entire reservation system for a restaurant and automate it. The question then becomes: what if your digital assistant calls into the Duplex powered system on the other side? Will they use human-like conversation to get the job done? Will we end up with human speech as the ultimate computer to computer language?

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How does this impact search and SEO?

Google Duplex might not seem to have a direct impact on search, but consider this: if your Google Assistant can have conversations like this with your hairdresser and your restaurant of choice, will you have these conversations with him/her too? Suddenly you can talk to your phone and sound like you’re talking to your secretary, instead of sounding like the freak who talks to his phone or watch. Search becomes even more conversational and queries get more complicated.

When queries get more complicated, context becomes more important than ever. And now we’re back to what we’ve been writing about for quite a while here at Yoast: you need to write awesome content. I really can’t add much to what Marieke wrote in that post, so read it.

The other side of how this impacts SEO is more technical. For AIs to be efficient, it’s far easier to rely on structured data. If you use a standards-based system like Schema.org for things like reservations, all Google has to do is tie into that. Suddenly, it doesn’t have to retrain its system for a new booking engine; it can just detect that you use Schema.org for that, and poof, it just works.

Next steps

So what’s next? Well, now we wait. We wait until we get to play with this. We’ll have to figure out how good this truly is before we can do anything else.

Read more: ‘Readability ranks!’ »

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The Russian language is huge; 265 million people have Russian as their first or second language, making it the world’s eight most used language. What’s more, according to W3Techs Russian is the second most used language online — following English by a huge margin. As of today, all of the Russian language WordPress users can get their content checked thanks to new language support in Yoast SEO 7.5.

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Russian language readability analysis and internal linking

We’ve been steadily growing the number of language we support in our readability analysis and internal linking tools. We started out with English, but now support a rapidly expanding roster of some of the world’s most used languages, like French, German, Spanish and Italian. The next language to join that club is Russian.

Now, Russian is a complex language that has its own set of rules and needs to be addressed differently. Natalia Shitova, one of our developers, researched, built and tested the Russian language support for Yoast SEO. I asked her how she did it.

Building the Russian language support

“When I joined the Yoast team two months ago I was the first Russian-speaking member. It was immediately clear that my #1 task would be to develop the Russian readability analysis. Our lovely Russian-speaking users could use something more than SEO checks and I could have fun with developing an analysis for my mother tongue,” Natalia says.

Working with Russian morphology

“The hardest part was the famous Russian morphology – think different forms of words that you need for different cases, numbers, tenses, voices, and combinations thereof. For instance, the word “mom” in English has two forms – “mom” and “moms”. The Russian “мама” has nine. And how many ways are there to use the word “one” in English? I see two again – “one” and “ones”. The Russian analog (fasten your seatbelt now!) has 13. Thirteen! Any meaningful content analysis will have to deal with morphology. After all, you need to know that all these 13 forms are the same word. Luckily, the Russian morphology is very well described in books, but we had to think about how to feed that monster to our butterfly plugin, which should work on the fly inside your browser. So this release is our first attempt to build lightweight yet powerful content analysis for a language with a mind-blowing morphology. More improvements are coming soon!”

“This release is our first attempt to build lightweight yet powerful content analysis for a language with a mind-blowing morphology”

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No Russian Flesch Reading Ease check yet

Russian support is almost complete, but you won’t find the Flesch Reading Ease score yet. According to Natalia, it’s quite a challenge to adopt the well-known Flesch Reading Ease check to produce something that’s useful for the Russian language. Natalia explains:

“You might notice that contrary to other supported languages we did not include Flesch Reading Ease check in the Russian readability analysis. Yes, there is a well-established formula for calculating Flesch index for Russian. No, we were not happy with how it worked. We tested the formula using a massive corpus of texts and it was almost impossible to receive a score above 50. This means no green bullet for you unless you write for small kids. “That is not kind,” we thought, “not encouraging, and totally not helpful!” I adjusted the formula a little, so that it returns a somewhat more realistic estimate of readability. With that recalibration you can use our Flesch readability check from the next release onwards.”

This work is now done and we’ll add the results in the next release, Yoast SEO 7.6.

Bug fixes

It’s always great to add support for a new language, but that’s not all we did. As always, we’ve fixed a number of bugs. Also, we improved the accessibility of the plugin. For instance, we fixed a bug that treated sentences ending in multiple sentence marks, exclamation marks or ellipses as multiple sentences. We’ve also fixed a bug where OpenGraph images with specific aspect ratios were causing unexpected results if you wanted to share these on Facebook. For the time being, we’ve removed the aspect ratio check completely. Of course, you can find all bug fixes and enhancements in the changelog on WordPress.org.

Update now to Yoast SEO 7.5

So there you have it: Yoast SEO 7.5 is another great update. This update brings our readability analysis to millions of Russian language users. As a result, each and every one our users can now improve their online content using the world-famous green bullet system. Here’s to better Russian language online content!

Keep reading: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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