I’m a visual thinker; I love looking at images. If I think about my search behavior, I catch myself looking at images quite often, for instance when I want to know what city X looks like. Or if I’m looking for a product I’ve seen somewhere, without knowing the brand or where I can buy it. You can imagine that there are a couple of cases when an image says more than a thousand words (I know, cliché) and that image search can be more useful than an overall search. The question is: how can I find out if I get traffic from image search? Let’s find out!

Google image search

First off, some basics: what’s a Google image search? Google offers a search service that allows you to search the world wide web for images. You can go to https://images.google.com/ or just click on the images tab on https://www.google.com.

yoast seo - Google Image Search

If you search for Yoast SEO in an image search, you’ll see something like this. We consider our images very important and put a lot of effort into them, as you can see in our awesome illustrations. They’re an important part of our branding, a lot of people recognize Yoast just by looking at the image. But for search, images are less relevant for us. People searching for our SEO plugin or one of our SEO courses won’t use image search. The same goes for a lot of SEO terms people search for.

But for businesses that depend heavily on images, image search is a vital part of their marketing. For online shops, travel agencies and food blogs, for instance, image SEO is important. And if something’s important, you want to know how it performs right?

Image search traffic

If someone clicks on an image in the Google image search results and decides to click on the link that directs you your site, you can detect this data in Google Analytics. And the way to do this is actually quite simple! I’ll show you how.

If you want to know how people end up on your website, the ‘Acquisition’ tab is the place to go. Expand the ‘All Traffic’ tab and click on ‘Source/Medium’. Here, you can find through which source people came to your site. You need to look for google images / organic:

Looking for google images in source/medium in Google Analytics

If you can not find it immediately, like in the screenshot above, you need to go look for it. You can do this by expanding the number of rows of the table and scroll around to look for google images / organic. Or use the search function and search for google images / organic:

Expand rows of use search function in Google Analytics

One of the benefits of expanding the number of rows is that you can see the position image search has compared to your other traffic sources. Plus, you can compare metrics like Bounce Rate and the number of sessions. The benefit of using the search function is that it’s a quick way of looking for image search traffic.

image search results in Google Analytics

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In the case of this particular website, 30 users (cookies) came to this website via an image search in Google, and they all bounced back immediately. So, for this website, image search doesn’t really lead to anything. It’s possible that image search isn’t important for this website, or that they should put more effort into their images and image SEO, making sure that it matches the expectations of the visitors more.

Conclusion

If you’re curious to find out if people come to your site by doing an image search in Google, then Google Analytics offers you the data to find out. Simply look for ‘google images / organic’ in the ‘source / medium’ report, and you’ll know if you attract any traffic with your images!

Read more: Image SEO »

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As much as we advocate holistic SEO here at Yoast, there will always be people turning to the dark side, employing less than savory techniques for their own gain. When someone targets a website with actions intended to lower its ranking in the SERPs, it’s called ‘negative SEO’.

One way people can try to damage a site’s rankings, is by getting loads of unnatural, shady links to point to a website. Now, you shouldn’t worry about being the target of a negative SEO attack like that the moment you notice a drop in your rankings! In most cases, the cause is something else. But, if you ascertained that there’s suddenly a great many shady backlinks to your site, it may be time to take action. Google’s disavow links tool allows you to ask Google not to take certain links into account when assessing your site. But is it OK to use this tool, and is it always necessary? Let’s discuss in today’s Ask Yoast!

Shant emailed us about this predicament:

I noticed about 18,000 links to my domain in Google Search Console from a few unethical websites. I suspect someone is targeting me with negative SEO, but my rankings are currently not affected. Should I still disavow these 18,000 links to my domain or could this harm my ranking? Or will Google’s algorithm realize this is a negative SEO effort and ignore them?

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

Dealing with bad backlinks

“Well, if you don’t want those links, then disavowing them doesn’t really hurt you. If you know how to disavow them, by all means do it. And you can disavow at a domain level, so if they only come from a few domains then just disavow those entire domains. If they’re not links you’re proud of, then they’re probably not helping you rank either.

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But, if it’s not really hurting your rankings at the moment, then you can also just do nothing because, yes, Google will usually figure out a lot of this by itself and say, “Hey, these domains are really, really shady and we should not allow these links to do anything. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: Clean up your bad backlinks »

 

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Many, many sites have an FAQ page. This is a page where a lot of frequently asked questions get the appropriate answer. It is often a single page filled to the brim with questions and answers. While it’s easy to add one, it’s good to keep in mind that not all sites need an FAQ. Most of the times all you need is good content targeted at the users’ needs. Here, I’ll discuss the use of FAQ pages and show you how to make one yourself with Yoast SEOs new structured data content blocks for Gutenberg. You won’t believe how easy it is.

What is an FAQ?

FAQ stands for frequently asked questions. It is more often than not a single page collecting a series of question and its answers on a specific subject, product or company. An FAQ is often seen as a tool to reduce the workload of the customer support team. It is also used to show that you are aware of the issues a customer might have and to provide an answer to that.

But first: Do you really, really, really need an FAQ?

Usually, if you need to answer a lot of questions from users in an FAQ, that means that your content is not providing these answers and that you should work on that. Or maybe it is your product or service itself that’s not clear enough? One of the main criticisms of FAQs is that they hardly ever answer the questions consumers really have. They are also lazy: instead of figuring out how to truly answer a question with formidable content, people rather throw some random stuff on a page and call it an FAQ.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use an FAQ. Numerous sites successfully apply them — even we use them. They do provide value. Users understand how an FAQ works and are quick to find what they are looking for — if the makers of the page know what they are doing. So don’t make endless lists of loosely related ‘How can I…’ or ‘How to…’ questions, because people will struggle to filter out what they need.

It has to be a page that’s easy to digest and has to have real answers to real questions by users. You can find scores of these if you search for them: ask your support team for instance! Collect and analyze the issues that come up frequently to see if you’re not missing some pain points in your products or if your content is targeting the wrong questions.

So don’t hide answers to pressings questions away on an FAQ page if you want to answer these in-depth: make an article out of it. This is what SEO deals with nowadays: provide an answer that matches your content to the search intent.

Questions and answers spoken out loud?

Google is trying to match a question from a searcher to an answer from a source. If you mark up your questions and answers with Question structured data, you tell search engines that this little sentence is a question and that this paragraph is its answer. Paragraph-based content is all the rage. One of the reasons? The advent of voice search. Google is looking for easy to understand, block-based content that it can use to answer searchers questions right in the search engine — or by speaking it out loud. Using the brand-spanking new Schema property speakable might even speed up this content discovery by determining which part of the content is fit for text-to-speech conversion.

How to build an FAQ page in WordPress via Yoast SEO content blocks

The best way to set up a findable, readable and understandable FAQ page on a WordPress site is by using the new structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO. These Gutenberg blocks make building an FAQ page a piece of cake. It even automatically adds the necessary structured data so search engines like Google can do cool stuff with it. But, if nothing else, it might even give you an edge over your competitor. So, let’s get to it!

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Step 1: Open WordPress’ new Gutenberg editor

Make a page in WordPress, add a title and an introductory paragraph. Now add the FAQ structured data content block. You can find the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks inside the Add Block modal. Scroll all the way down to find them or type ‘FAQ’ in the search bar, which I’ve highlighted in the screenshot below.

Step 2: Add questions and answers

After you’ve added the FAQ block, you can start to add questions and answers to it. Keep in mind that these questions live inside the FAQ block. It’s advisable to keep the content related to each other so you can keep the page clean and focused. So no throwing in random questions.

Step 3: Keep filling, check and publish

After adding the first question and answering it well, keep adding the rest of your questions and answers until you’ve filled your FAQ page. In the screenshot below you see two questions filled in. I’ve highlighted two buttons, the Add Image button and the Add Question. These speak for themselves.

Once you are done, you’ll have a well-structured FAQ page. Go to the frontend of your site and check if everything is in order. If not, make the necessary changes.

What does this look like under the hood?

Run your new FAQ page through Structured Data Testing Tool to see what it looks like for Google. Yoast SEO should generate valid structured data for your FAQ page. Here’s a piece of a page I made, showing one particular question:
It’s basically built up like this. The context surrounding the questions is an FAQPage Schema graph. Every question gets a Question type and an acceptedAnswer with an answer type. That sounds hard, but it’s not. All you have to do is fill in the Question and the Answer and you’re good to go! Let’s break it down:

  • context is Schema.org of course
  • The FAQ page content lives inside a graph
  • type: Question
  • name: The question as written by you
  • answerCount: The number of answers counted. In our case that’s only one, but this will change if you have a Quora type of site where people can send in their own answers
  • acceptedAnswer: The answer that will show in search
    • type: Answer
    • text: The written answer for the question in this block

This translates to the code below as generated automatically by the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks. Now, Google will immediately see that this piece of content contains a question with an accepted answer. If you’re lucky, this might eventually lead to a featured snippets or another type of cool rich result.

<script type="application/ld+json">
	{
		"@context": "http:\/\/schema.org",
		"@graph": [{
				"@type": "FAQPage",
				"name": "An FAQ: How to use Yoast structured data content blocks"
			},
			{
				"@type": "Question",
				"name": "What is SEO?",
				"answerCount": 1,
				"acceptedAnswer": {
					"@type": "Answer",
					"text": "SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It's the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google's - or another search engine's - search results. SEO focuses on rankings in the organic (non-paid) search results."
				}
			},
			{
				"@type": "Question",
				"name": "What is crawlability?",
				"answerCount": 1,
				"acceptedAnswer": {
					"@type": "Answer",
					"text": "Crawlability has to do with the possibilities Google has to crawl your website. Crawlers can be blocked from your site. There are a few ways to block a crawler from your website. If your website or a page on your website is blocked, you're saying to Google's crawler: 'do not come here'. Your site or the respective page won't turn up in the search results in most of these cases."
				}
			}
		]
	}
</script>

Structured data is so cool

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Structured data is where it’s at. It is one of the foundations on which the web is built today and its importance will only increase with time. In this post, I’ve shown you one of the newest Schema additions, and you’ll be seeing this pop up in the search results sometime soon.

Since this is only an introduction to FAQ Schema, there are loads more properties to find on Schema.org. While not everything is available in Yoast SEO structured data content blocks, there’s a chance we’ll add some of those soon. You can always build on the groundwork that Yoast SEO lays down for you.

Read more: Why every website needs Yoast SEO »

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SEOs are, more often than not, “cat people”. That’s no surprise, given that we spend a lot of time online, and given that The Internet Is Made Of Cats. That’s why the first website which I’m looking at in this series belongs to the Cats Protection charity – a UK organization dedicated to feline welfare.

I’m going to explore their website and see where they have issues, errors, and opportunities with their technical SEO. Hopefully, I’ll find some things which they can fix and improve, and thus improve their organic visibility. Maybe we’ll learn something along the way, too.

Not a cat person? Don’t worry! I’ll be choosing a different charity in each post. Let me know who you think I should audit next time in the comments!


Introducing the brand

The Cats Protection homepage

Cats Protection (formally the Cats Protection League, or CPL) describe themselves as the UK’s Largest Feline Welfare Charity. They have over 250 volunteer-run branches, 29 adoption centers, and 3 homing centers. That’s a lot of cats, a lot of people, and a lot of logistics.

Their website (at https://www.cats.org.uk/) reflects this complexity – it’s broad, deep, and covers everything from adoption to veterinary servers, to advice and location listings.

Perhaps because of that complexity, it suffers from a number of issues, which hinder its performance. Let’s investigate, and try to understand what’s going on.

Understanding the opportunity

Before I dive into some of the technical challenges, we should spend some time assessing the current performance of the site. This will help us spot areas which are underperforming, and help us to identify areas which might have issues. We’ll also get a feeling for how much they could grow if they fix those issues.

The ‘Visibility Index’ score (Sistrix) for cats.org.uk, desktop and mobile

I’m using Sistrix to see data on the ‘visibility index‘ for cats.org.uk, for desktop and mobile devices. We can see that the site experienced gradual growth from 2010 until late 2013, but – other than a brief spike in late-2018 (which coincides with Google’s “Medic” update in August)- seems to have stagnated.

Where they’re winning

As we dig into some of the visibility data, you can see that Cats Protection rank very well in the UK for a variety of cat- and adoption-related phrases. Let’s see some examples of where they’re winning.

Keyword # Page
lost cat 1 /help-and-advice/lost-a-cat
cats adoption 1 /adopt-a-cat
buying a cat 1 /adopt-a-cat/[…]adopt-from-us
cat reproduction 1 /help[…]/reproduction
cat charity 1 /
cat protection 1 /
cat neutering 1 /what-we-do/neutering
neuter cat 1 /what-we-do/neutering
buy a cat 1 /adopt-a-cat/[…]adopt-from-us
cat help 1 /cat-care/help-and-advice
adopting a cat 1 /adopt-a-cat/ready-to-adopt
cat org 1 /
outdoor cats 1 /uploads/[…]outdoor_cats.pdf
heart murmur in cats 1 /uploads/[…]heart_disease.pdf
free cat neutering 1 /what-we-do/neutering
cats 2 /
cat care 2 /cat-care
feral cats 2 /help-and-advice/feral-cat
cat for adoption 2 /adopt-a-cat
cats for adoption 2 /adopt-a-cat
cat body language 2 /help[…]/body-language
plants poisonous to cats 2 /help[…]/dangerous-plants
neutering cats 2 /what-we-do/neutering
found cat 2 /help-and-advice/found-a-cat
old cats 2 /help-and-advice/elderly-cats
cat behaviour problems 2 /[…]behaviour-problems

They’re doing a great job. They’re ranking highly for important, competitive keywords. In almost all cases, the result is a well-aligned page which is a great result, full of useful information.

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These kinds of keywords likely account for a large proportion of the visits they receive from search engines. It’s reasonable to assume that they also drive many of their conversions and successful outcomes.

But they’re losing to the competition

It’s not all good news, though. Once you explore beyond the keywords where they’re winning, you can see that they’re often beaten to the top positions on key terms (e.g., “adopt a cat”, where they rank #2).

In cases like this, they’re frequently outranked by one of three main competitors in the search results:

  • Purina – a cat food manufacturer/retailer.
  • Blue Cross – a charity dedicated to helping sick, injured and homeless animals
  • The RSPCA – a general animal welfare and rehoming charity

Now, I don’t want to suggest or imply that any one of these is a better or worse charity, service, or result than Cats Protection. Obviously, each of these (and many more) charities and websites can co-exist in the same space, and do good work. There’s plenty of opportunity for all of them to make the world a better place without directly competing with each other.

Purina’s “Cat Anxiety” page has almost 1,000 words of helpful content.

In fact, for many of the keywords they’re likely to be interested in, the results from each site are equally good. Each of these sites is doing great work in educating, supporting, and charitable activity.

Even Purina, which isn’t a charity, has a website full of high quality, useful, content around cat care.

However, among the major players in this space, Cats Protection has the lowest visibility. Their visibility is dwarfed by Blue Cross and the RSPCA, and the gap looks set to continue to widen. Even Purina’s content appears to be eating directly into Cats Protection market share.

The Visibility Index of Cats Protection vs organic search competitors over time

It’d be a shame if Cats Protection could be helping more cats, but fail to do so because their visibility is hindered by technical issues with their website.

To compete, and to grow, Cats Protection needs to identify opportunities to improve their SEO.

Looking at the long tail

Cats Protection probably doesn’t want to go head-to-head with the RSPCA (or just fight to take market share directly from other charities). That’s why I’ll need to look deeper or elsewhere for opportunities to improve performance and grow visibility.

If the site gets stronger technically, then it’s likely to perform better. Not just against the big players for competitive ‘head’ keywords, but also for long-tail keywords, where they can beat poorer quality resources from other sites.

As soon as you start looking at keywords where Cats Protection has a presence but low visibility, it’s obvious that there are many opportunities to improve performance. Unfortunately, there are some significant architectural and technical challenges which might be holding them back.

I’ve used Sitebulb to crawl the site, and I’ve found three critical issues. These areas contribute significantly to the low (and declining) visibility.

Critical issues

1. The site is fragmented

Every individual branch of the charity appears to get and maintain its own subdomain and own version of the website.

For example, the Glasgow branch maintains what appears to be a close copy of the main website, and both the North London branch and the Birmingham branch both maintain their own divergent ‘local’ versions of the site. Much of the content on these sites is a direct copy of that which is available on the main website.

Fragmentation is harming their performance

This approach significantly limits visibility and potential, as it dilutes the value of each site. In particular;

  1. Search engines usually consider subdomains to be separate websites. It’s usually better to have one big site than to have lots of small websites. With lots of small sites, you risk value and visibility being split between each ‘sub site’.
  2. Content is repeated, duplicated, and diluted; pages that one team produces will often end up competing with pages created by other teams, rather than competing with other websites.
  3. The site doesn’t use canonical URL tags to indicate the ‘main version’ of a given page to search engines. This makes this page-vs-page competition even worse.

This combination of technical and editorial fragmentation means that they’re spread too thin. None of the individual sites, or their pages, are strong enough to compete against larger websites. That means they get fewer visits, less engagement, and fewer links.

You can see some examples below where fragmentation is a huge issue for search engines. Google – in its confusion between the multiple sites and duplicate pages – continually switches the rankings and ranking pages for competitive terms between different versions. This weakens the performance and visibility of these pages, and the overall site(s).

Google continually switches the ranking page(s) for competitive keywords

Rankings for “adopt a kitten” continually fluctuate between competing pages

If Cats Protection consolidated their efforts and their content, they might have a chance. Otherwise, other brands will continue to outperform them with fewer, but stronger pages.

Managing local vs general content

While it makes sense to enable (and encourage) local branches to produce content which is specifically designed for local audiences, there are better ways to do this.

They could achieve the same level of autonomy and localization by just using subfolders for each branch. Those branches could create locale-specific content within those page trees. ‘Core’ content could remain a shared, centralized asset, without the need to duplicate pages in each section.

At the moment, their site and server configuration actually appears to be set up to allow for a subdomain-based approach. https://birmingham.cats.org.uk/, for example, appears to resolve to the same content as https://www.cats.org.uk/birmingham. It seems that they’ve just neglected to choose which version they want to make the canonical, and/or to redirect the other version.

They’ve also got some additional nasty issues where:

  • The non-HTTPS version of many of the subdomains resolves without redirecting to the secure version. That’s going to be fragmenting their page value even further.
  • Requests to any subdomain resolve to the main site; e.g., http://somerandomexample.cats.org.uk/ returns the homepage. Aside from further compounding their fragmentation issues, this opens them up to some nasty negative SEO attack vectors.
  • There are frequent HTTPS/security problems when local branches link (or are linked to) including the ‘www’ component and the location subdomain (e.g., https://www.vuildford.cats.org.uk/learn/e-learning-ufo).

Incidentally, if Cats Protection were running on WordPress (they’re on a proprietary CMS running on ASP.NET), they’d be a perfect fit for WordPress multisite. They’d be able to manage their ‘main’ site while allowing teams from each branch to produce their own content in neat, organized, local subfolders. They could also manage access, permissions, and how shared content should behave. And of course, the Yoast SEO plugin would take care of canonical tags, duplication, and consolidation.

Canonical URL tags to the rescue

While resolving all of these fragmentation issues feels like a big technical challenge, there might be an easy win for Cats Protection. If they add support for canonical tags, they could tell Google to consolidate the links and value on shared pages back to the original. That way each local site can contribute to the whole, while maintaining its own dedicated pages and information.

That’s not a perfect solution, but it’d go some way to arresting the brand’s declining visibility. Regardless of their approach to site structure, they should prioritize adding support and functionality for canonical URL tags. That way they can ensure that they aren’t leaking value between duplicate and multiple versions of pages. That would also allow them to pool resources on improving the performance of key, shared content.

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The great news is, because they’re running Google Tag Manager, they could insert canonical URL tags without having to spend development resources. They could just define triggers and tags through GTM, and populate the canonical tags via JavaScript. This isn’t best practice, but it’s a lot better than nothing!

2. Their best content is buried in PDFs

In many of the cases where Cats Protection is outranked by other charities or results, it’s because some of its best content is buried in PDF files like this one.

A high-quality resource about cat dental health, in a PDF

PDFs typically perform poorly in search results. That’s because they can be harder for search engines to digest, and provide a comparatively poor user experience when clicked from search results. That means that they’re less likely to be linked to, cited or shared. This seriously limits the site’s potential to rank for competitive keywords.

As an example, this excellent resource on cat behavior currently ranks in position #5, behind Purina (whose content is, in my personal opinion, not even nearly as good or polished), and behind several generic content pages.

The information in here is deeper, more specific, and better written than many of the resources which outrank it. But its performance is limited by its format.

If this were a page (and was as well-structured and well-presented as the PDF), it would undoubtedly create better engagement and interaction. That would drive the kinds of links and shares which could lead to significantly increased visibility. It would also benefit from being part of a networked hub of pages, linking to and being linked from related content.

A great resource in its own right, this PDF links to a bunch of even more in-depth PDF resources!

Amazingly, this particular PDF is also only a summary. It references other, more specific PDFs throughout, which are of equally high quality. But it doesn’t link to them, so search engines struggle to discover or understand the connections between the documents.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of these types of PDFs, and hundreds of scenarios where they’re being outranked by lower quality content. This is costing Cats Protection significant visibility, visits, and adoptions.

Aside from being easier to style (outside of the constraints of rigid website templates and workflows), there’s very little reason to produce web content in this manner. This type of content should be produced in a ‘web first’ manner, and then adapted as necessary for other business purposes.

How bad is it?

To demonstrate the severity of the issues, I’ve looked at several examples of where PDFs rank for potentially important keywords.

In the following table, I’ve used Sistrix to filter down to only see keywords where the ranking URL is a PDF, and it contains the word “new” (i.e., “new cat”, “get a new kitten”). These are likely to represent the kinds of searches people make when deciding to adopt. You can see that Cats Protection frequently ranks relatively poorly and that these PDFs aren’t particularly effective as landing pages.

Keyword # PDF
acclimating a new cat 3 EG02_Welcome_home.pdf
getting a new cat 4 EG02_Welcome_home.pdf
looking after a new kitten 4 EG15_Caring_for_your_kitten.pdf
having a new kitten 5 EG02_Welcome_home.pdf
new kitten 6 EG02_Welcome_home.pdf
new kitten care 6 EG15_Caring_for_your_kitten.pdf
new kitten tips 8 EG02_Welcome_home.pdf
getting a new kitten 8 EG02_Welcome_home.pdf
how to take care of a new kitten 9 EG15_Caring_for_your_kitten.pdf
how to take care of your new kitten 10 EG15_Caring_for_your_kitten.pdf
new kitten advice 12 EG15_Caring_for_your_kitten.pdf

This tiny subset of keywords represents over 1,000 searches per month in the UK. That’s 1000 scenarios where Cats Protection inadvertently provides a poor user experience and loses to other, often lower quality resources.

And value might not even be getting to those resources…

Many of the links to these resources appear to route through an internal URL shortener – likely a marketing tool for producing ‘pretty’ or shorter URLs than the full-length file locations.

E.g., https://www.cats.org.uk/-behaviour-topcatpart1 redirects to https://www.cats.org.uk/uploads/documents/Behaviour_-_Top_cat_part_1.pdf, with a 302 redirect code.

This is common practice on many sites, and usually not a problem – except, in this case, resources redirect via a 302 redirect. They should change this to a 301; otherwise, there’s a chance that any equity which might have flowed through the link to the PDF gets ‘stuck’ at the redirect.

It’s not too late!

The good news is, it’s not too late to convert these into pages and to alter whichever internal workflows and processes currently exist around these resources. That will almost certainly improve the rankings, visibility, and traffic for these kinds of keywords.

Except, upon investigation, you can see from the URL path that it looks like all of these assets were produced in 2013. My guess is that these PDFs were commissioned as a batch, and haven’t been updated or extended since. That goes some way to explaining the format, and why they’re so isolated. Their creation was a one-off project, rather than part of the day-to-day activities of the site and marketing teams.

There’s more opportunity here

The ‘Veterinary Guides’ page on cats.org.uk just links out to PDF files.

Because much of the key content is tucked away in PDF files, the performance of many of the site’s ‘hub’ pages is also limited. Sections like this one, which should be the heart of a rich information library, is simply a set of links pointing out to aging PDF files. That limits the likelihood that people will engage, link, share or use these pages.

This a shame, because Cats Protection could choose to compete strategically on the quality of these assets. They could go further; produce more, make them deeper and better, and refine their website templating system to allow them to present them richly and beautifully. This could go a long way toward helping them reclaim lost ground from Purina and other competitors.

At the very least, they should upgrade the existing PDFs into rich, high-quality pages.

Once they’ve done that, they should update all of the links which currently point to the PDF assets, to point at the new URLs. Lastly, they should set a canonical URL on the PDF files via an HTTP header (you can’t insert canonical URL meta/link tags directly into PDFs) pointing at the new page URL.

Not only would that directly impact the performance and visibility of that content, but it’ll also help them to build relevance and authority in the ‘hub’ pages, like their veterinary guides section.

3. Their editorial and ‘marketing’ content is on the wrong website

While this is primarily a technical audit, bear with me as I talk briefly about content and tone of voice. I believe that technical issues and constraints have played a significant role in defining the whole brand’s tone of voice online, and not for the better.

Because, surprisingly for such an emotive ‘product’, much of the content on the website might be considered to be ‘dry’; perhaps even a bit ‘corporate’.

In order to attract and engage visitors (and to encourage them to cite, link and share content – which is critical for SEO performance), content needs to have a personality. It needs to stand for something and to have an opinion. Pages have to create an emotional response. Of course, Cats Protection do all of this, but they do it on the wrong website.

Much of their emotive content lives on a dedicated subdomain (the ‘Meow blog‘), where it rarely sees the light of day.

Emotive and ‘real world’ content lives on the ‘Meow blog’

It’s another fragmentation issue

The Meow blog runs on an entirely separate CMS from the main site (Blogger/Blogspot). This site is also riddled with technical issues and flaws – not to mention the severely limited stylistic, layout and presentation options. This site gets little traffic or attention, and very few links/likes/shares. Much of its content competes with – and is beaten by – dryer content on the main site.

Heartwarming stories about re-homing kittens abound on the Meow blog

But the blog is full of pictures of cats, rescue and recovery stories from volunteers and adopters, and warm ‘from the front line’ editorial content. This is the kind of content you’d want to read before deciding whether or not to engage with Cats Protection, and it should be part of the core user journey. Today, most users miss this entirely.

We can see from the following table, which shows the site’s highest rankings, that their content gets very little traction. The site only ranks in the top 100 results of Google for 258 keywords, and only ranks in the top ten for 5 of those. Nobody who is searching for exactly the kinds of things which Cats Protection should have an opinion on – and be found for – is arriving here.

Keyword # URL
how much does it cost to neuter a cat 4 /[…]cost-of-getting-cat-neutered.html
do i need to vaccinate my indoor cat 6 /[…]do-indoor-cats-need-boosters-vaccinations.html
do cats need booster shots 7 /[…]do-indoor-cats-need-boosters-vaccinations.html
the kittens 9 /[…]kitten-watch-kittens-in-new-homes.html
how to show affection to your cat 9 /[…]5-ways-to-show-your-cat-you-love-them.html
why doesn’t my cat purr 10 /[…]why-doesnt-my-cat-purr-veterinary-faqs.html
do indoor cats need vaccinations 10 /[…]do-indoor-cats-need-boosters-vaccinations.html
cat lovers blog 11 /[…]top-books-for-cat-lovers.html
becoming a cat behaviorist 11 /[…]careers-with-cats-cat-behaviourist.html
cat ideal weight 14 /[…]cats-ideal-weight-veterinary-faqs.html

Furthermore, this separation means that where personality is ‘injected’ into core site pages, the stark contrast can make it feels artificial and contrived. It often reads like ‘marketing content’ when compared with the flat tone of the content around it.

Why is the blog on a different system?

Typically, this kind of separation occurs when a CMS hasn’t properly anticipated (or otherwise can’t support) ‘editorial’ content; blog posts and articles which are authored, categorized, media-rich, and so forth. These are different types of requirements and functions from a website which just supports ‘pages’, or which has been designed and built to serve a very specific set of requirements.

As a result, a marketing team will typically create and maintain a separate ‘blog’, often separated from the main site. This can cripple the performance of those companies’ marketing and reach, as the blog never inherits the authority of the main site (and therefore, has little visibility), and fails to deliver against marketing and commercial goals. This often leads to abandonment, and over-investment in marketing in rented channels, like Facebook. Speculatively, it looks like this is exactly what’s happened here.

Conversely, either through poor training and management or outright rebellion, some teams prefer to publish ‘blog-like’ content as static articles within the constraints and confines of their local branch news sections. These attempts, lacking the kind of architecture, framework, and strategy which a successful blog requires, also fail to perform. Here’s an example from the Brighton branch.

The Brighton branch rolling out their own ‘blog’ solution

From a technical perspective, the main site should be able to house this content on the same domain, as part of the same editorial and structural processes which manage their ‘main’ content. If the separation of the blog from the main site is due to technical constraints inherent in the main site, this is a devastating failure of planning, scoping and/or budgeting. It’s limited their ability to attract and engage audiences, to integrate and showcase their personality into their main site content, and to convert more of their audience to donation, adoption or other outcomes.

While fixing some of the technical issues we’ve spotted should result in immediate improvements to visibility, the long-term damage of this separation of content types will require years of effort to undo.

This is something which WordPress gets right at a deep architectural level. The core distinction between ‘pages’ and ‘posts’ (as well as support for custom post types, custom/shared, and post capability management) is hugely powerful and flexible. Other platforms could learn a lot from studying how WordPress solves exactly this kind of problem.

Regardless of their choice of platform(s), Cats Protection need to have a solid strategy for how they seamlessly house and integrate blog content with ‘core’ site content in a way which aligns with technical and editorial best practice.

4. Serious technical SEO standards abound

I understand that as a charity, Cats Protection has limited budget and resource to invest in their website. It’s unreasonable to expect their custom-built site to be completely perfect when it comes to technical SEO, or to adhere 100% to cutting edge standards.

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However, the gap between ‘current’ and ‘best’ performance is wide – enough that I’d be remiss in our review not to point out some of the more severe issues which I’ve identified.

I’ve spotted dozens of issues throughout the site which are likely impacting performance, ranging from severe problems with how the site behaves, to minor challenges with individual templates or pages.

Individually, many of these problems aren’t serious enough to cause alarm. Collectively, however, they represent one of the biggest factors limiting the site’s visibility.

I’ve highlighted the issues which I think represent the biggest opportunities – those which, if fixed, should help to unlock increased performance worth many times the resource invested in resolving them.

Many pages and templates are missing title, description or H1 tags

Page titles and meta descriptions are hugely important for SEO. They’re an opportunity to describe the focus of the page, and to optimize your ‘advert’ (your organic listing) in search engines. H1 tags act as the primary heading for a page, and help users and search engines to know where they are, and what a page is about.

Not having these tags is a serious omission, and can severely impact the performance of a page.

Many important pages on the site (like the “Adopt a cat” page) are missing titles, descriptions and headings, which is likely impacting the visibility of and traffic to many key pages.

Source code from the ‘Adopt a cat’ page, which is missing a title and description

As well as harming performance, omitting titles often forces Google to try and make its own decisions – often with terrible effect. The following screenshot is from a search result for the ‘Kittens’ page – the site’s main page for donation signups. An empty title tag and missing <h1> heading tag has caused Google to think that the title should be ‘Cookie settings’.

Google incorrectly assumes the page title should be ‘Cookie settings’

There are hundreds of pages where this, and similar issues are occurring.

A good CMS should provide controls for editors and site admins to craft titles, descriptions, and headings. But the site should also automatically generate a sensible default title, description and primary heading for any template or page where there’s nothing manual specified (based on the name and content of the page). Needless to say, this is one of the core features in Yoast SEO!

Errors and content retirement processes are poorly managed

Requests for invalid URLs (such as https://www.cats.org.uk/this-is-an-example) frequently return a 200 HTTP header status. That tells Google that everything is okay and that the page is explicitly not an error. Every time somebody moves or deletes a page, they create more ‘error’ pages.

As a result, Google is frequently confused about what constitutes an actual error, and many error pages are incorrectly indexed.

Is this an error page? The 200 HTTP header says not.

This further dilutes the performance of key pages, and the site overall.

A ‘raw’ server error generated from an invalid .aspx URL

Then again, at least this page provides links and routes back into the main content. Other types of errors (such as those generated by requesting invalid URL structures like this one, which ends in .aspx) return a ‘raw’ server error, which although it correctly returns a 404 HTTP header status, is essentially a dead end to search engines. Needless to say, that negatively impacts performance.

The poor error management here also makes day-to-day site management much harder. Tools like Google Search Console, which report on erroneous URLs and offer suggestions, are rendered largely useless due to the ambiguity around what constitutes a ‘real’ 404 error. That makes undergoing a process of identifying, resolving and/or redirecting these kinds of URLs pretty much impossible. The site is constantly leaking, and accruing technical debt.

A ‘live’ adoption listing page

And it’s not just deleted or erroneous URLs; the site handles dynamic and retired content poorly. When a cat has been adopted, the page which used to have information about it now returns a 200 HTTP header status and a practically empty page.

An invalid ‘cid’ parameter in the URL returns an empty page, but a 200 HTTP header status

Every time Cats Protection list, or unlist a cat for adoption, they create new issues and grow their technical debt.

Their careers subdomain has the opposite problem; pages are seemingly never removed, and just build up over time. This wastes resources on crawling, indexing, and equity. Expired jobs should be elegantly retired (and the URLs redirected) after they expire. Properly retiring old jobs (or, at least their markup) is a requirement if Cats Protection want to take advantage enhanced search engine listings from resulting from implementing schema markup for jobs.

A job listing which expired in May 2018, but which is still accessible and indexed by Google

Issues like this crop up throughout their whole ecosystem. Value is constantly ‘leaking’ out of their site as a result. To prevent this, they need to ensure that invalid requests return a consistent, ‘friendly’ 404 page, with an appropriate HTTP status. They also need to implement processes which make sure that content expiry, movement, and deletion processes redirect or return appropriate HTTP status (something which the Redirect Manager in Yoast SEO Premium handles automatically).

Oher areas

In my opinion, these issues represent some of the biggest (technical SEO) barriers to growth which the brand faces. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but until they address and resolve them, fixing a million tiny issues page-by-page isn’t going to move the needle. I could definitely dig deeper, into areas like site speed (why haven’t they adopted HTTP/2?), their .NET implementation (why are they still using ViewState blocks?) and the overall UX – but this is already a long post.

There is, however, just one last area I’d like to consider.

A light at the end of the tunnel?

In researching and evaluating the platform, I couldn’t help but notice a link in the footer to the agency who designed and built the website – MCN NET. Excitingly, their homepage contains the following block of content:

After a very tense and nerve-racking tender process we were thrilled to hear that we had once again being nominated as the preferred supplier for the redevelopment of the Cats Protection website. This complex and feature rich website is scheduled to make its debut in 2019, so be sure to keep an eye out for it. It’ll be Purrrfect.

Hopefully, that means that many of the problems I’ve identified have already been solved. Hopefully.

Except, that’s perhaps a little ambitious. I don’t know the folks at MCN, and I don’t know what the brief, budget or scope they received was like when they built the current site. As I touched on earlier, charities don’t have money to burn on building perfect websites, and maybe what they got was the right balance of cost and quality for them, at the time. I’m certainly not suggesting that it’s solely MCN’s fault that the Cats Protection website suffers from these issues.

However, my many years of experience in and around web development has given me have a well-earned nervousness around .NET and Microsoft technologies, and a deep distrust of custom-built and proprietary content management systems.

That’s because, in my opinion, all of the issues I’ve pointed out in this article are basic. Arguably, they’re not even really SEO things – they’re just a “build a decent website which works reasonably well” level of standards. I recognize that, in part, that’s because the open source community – and WordPress, and Yoast, in particular – has made these the standards. And proprietary solutions and custom CMS platforms often struggle to keep up with to the thousands of improvements which the open source community contributes every month. If the current website is reaching its end of life, it’s not surprising that it’s creaking at the seams.

With a new website coming, I hope that all of this feedback can be taken on board, and the problems resolved. I understand the commercial realities which mean that ‘best’ isn’t achievable, but they could achieve a lot just by going from ‘bad’ to ‘good’.

With that in mind, if I were working for or on behalf of Cats Protection, I’d want to be very clear about the scope of the new website. I’d want detailed planning and documentation round its functionality, and the baseline level of technical quality required. Of course, that will have cost and resource implications, but the new site will have to work a lot harder than the current one. Cats Protection are competing in an aggressive, crowded market, full of strong competitors. The stability of their foundations will make the difference between winning and losing.

I’d also want to have a very clear plan in place for the migration strategy from the current website to a new website. Migrations of this size and complexity, when handled poorly, have been known to kill businesses.

Every existing page, URL and asset will need to be redirected to a new home. Given the types of fragmentation issues, errors and orphaned assets we’ve seen, this is a huge job. Even mapping out and creating that plan – never mind executing it – feels like a mammoth task.

Hopefully, this is all planned out, and in good hands. I can’t wait to see what the new site looks like, and how it boosts their visibility.

Summary

Cats Protection is a strong brand, doing good work, crippled by the condition of its aging and fragmented website. Other charities and brands are eating into its market share and visibility with worse content and marketing. They’re able to do this, in part, because they have stronger technical platforms.

Some of the technical decisions Cats Protection has made around its content strategy have caused long-term harm. The fragmentation of local branches and the separation of the blog have seriously limited their performance.

A disclaimer

Neither the author nor Yoast BV is in any way related to, representing, commissioned by or acting on behalf of Cats Protection. All content is the opinion of the author. Our assessment aims to educate the public through assessing real-world scenarios.

All of the content, information, and media we have explored is from publically available tools and sources. It is in no way privileged and was correct (to the best of our knowledge) at the time of writing. We acknowledge that we have only reviewed part of Cats Protection’s ecosystem and publically assessable marketing activities (and have deliberately focused on identifying issues and faults), and that our findings aren’t necessarily inclusive or representative of other/overall activity and performance.

The findings of this article should not be construed as professional advice, and we will be held in no way responsible for the outcome of actions taken (or inaction) based on the contents of this article.

In no way do we intend to judge, either positively or negatively, on the decisions, performance, or operations of Cats Protection, their website, partners, suppliers or personnel.

‘Fixing’ this could take years, even if the right foundations are put in place with the new site structure. Cats Protection will need to change the way it thinks about, produces and manages content, too.

The quality of their new website will have a significant impact on their future success. They must also carefully manage the process under which it is launched, otherwise they risk disaster.

This is a lot to tackle. And as a charity, they undoubtedly have limited budgets to achieve the necessary levels of quality, strategy, and functionality.

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you can help them better prepare for and invest in getting this right. Help them continue their mission of helping change the lives of cats and kittens – by donating to their cause.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if I’ve missed anything serious (or got anything wrong!) in the comments, or let me know which charity you’d like me to consider for my next review!

Read more: How to perform an SEO audit »

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Great news: you’ll get a 15% discount on any Yoast Academy training course or bundle if you get it now! Why? Because we have an anniversary to celebrate! Exactly three years ago, we launched Yoast Academy with our first training: Basic SEO. Now, we have a full-fledged Academy with 9 awesome training courses. Thinking about taking an online SEO training course?

Get your 15% discount now, as today is the last day of our Academy sale!

Find out how to optimize all SEO aspects of your site in our All-in-one training bundle!

All-in-one SEO training bundle Info

What products does the discount apply to?

The 15% discount applies to all of our Academy products. Including our course bundles, which are attractively priced to begin with. In total, you’ll save up to a whopping 66% discount on all our courses with the all-in-one training bundle, for example!

But what courses does Yoast Academy offer? Our most popular training is the Yoast SEO for WordPress training, in which you’ll learn everything about our plugin. And our Basic SEO training covers the basics of all aspects of SEO. If you’re looking for a good deal, the all-new SEO training starter pack actually combines these courses at a great price, and includes feedback on your plugin setup to boot!

We’re also there for you if you want to go beyond the basics. Find out how to use the keywords your audience uses with the Keyword research training. Brush up your writing skills with the SEO copywriting training. Or dive into technical optimization with our Technical SEO and Structured data courses. And there’s more! For a complete overview, check out our course catalog.

Why follow an online SEO course at Yoast Academy?

Yoast Academy is a great way to gain practical SEO skills, whether you’re a beginner or already know a lot. Sure, there are free videos on SEO on YouTube, but their quality varies and they often contradict each other. So who should you trust? And how do you translate information into actual SEO efforts? Learning is more than just passing on information. We offer additional reading materials, challenging quizzes, and assignments that allow you to actually practice everything you’ve learned, as you see in the example below.

Robots meta tag gap fill question

This question about robots meta tags allows you to practice writing the actual code itself.

Do I need previous knowledge?

Anyone can follow any Yoast Academy training. There are no prerequisites. We start with the basics, then go into the specifics in small and accessible steps. And when we say specifics, we mean things even experienced SEO experts may not know about.

Will following an Academy course cost a lot of time?

Don’t worry about time! All of our courses are available online and on-demand. We’ve broken up our courses into bite-size lessons. So instead of browsing Facebook for 10 minutes, why not just complete an Academy lesson? Moreover, all course materials will immediately be available to you after purchase. You will get full access to the course for a whole year. You can take the training whenever, wherever you want. Spread it out however you like!

Conclusion

If you want to improve your SEO skills by following an Academy training course, now’s the time to grab one. The 15% discount applies to all of our Academy products, including bundles. But don’t wait too long!

 

Read on: How to become an SEO expert »

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WordPress is open source. Yoast SEO is open source. At Yoast, we’re open source fanboys (and fangirls). We’ve talked about it, we’ve written about it. And still, lots of people do not know why open source is so unique. Most people do not even know what open source software is or how it’s made. That’s why we’re starting a series of interviews with people that love open source as much as we do. We’ll even search outside of WordPress. Let’s start this series with an interview with our very own Joost de Valk, founder and CEO of Yoast.

Q. Why is open source important to you?
“Open source is important to me because it’s what allowed me to learn how to code. I learned to write code by looking at other people’s code. Another reason why open source is so very important to me is that I have a deep feeling that this is how software should be developed and how knowledge should be shared. This might sound a bit grand, but as human kind, it just doesn’t make sense to develop the same things over and over again.”

Q. In what way do you contribute to open source projects?

I actively contribute to WordPress Core myself. In addition, as a company, we contribute to open source platforms by donating development time, design time, marketing time and money.

Q. Who is your open source hero?

“Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia. He’s a hero because he open sourced Wikimedia, the platform on which Wikipedia is build. In a way – with Wikipedia itself – he actually open sourced all knowledge. That’s just really awesome.”

Q. Do you have to be a developer to be involved with open source?

“No, absolutely not. Every open source project needs copywriters, translators, marketers, designers and project managers in order to succeed. Also, we need people with lots of other skill sets for, for instance, organizing a conference. I think that at Yoast, about half of our contribution is not code.”

Q. When and what was your first open source contribution?

“My first open source contribution was a test case for WebKit, the core of Safari and Chrome. This was at the end of 2005. I’ve written hundreds of test cases for WebKit and I started blogging about that on WordPress.”

Q. Does open source say anything about the quality of a product?

“Open source itself is not a guarantee of quality. There’s good and there’s bad open source software. However, with open source software, you’ll always be able to hire a developer to work on a product, even if a product is abandoned. You’ll never end up with a completely dead product because you can always reach the code. I think that is a major advantage of open source software as compared to closed source software.

Q. How do you learn from open source software?

“Open source code is visible to everybody. Because of that, you can learn from other people’s code. You can see and learn from the solutions of other people. Working on open source projects also means that you can discuss and collaborate with others who are working on the same product.

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The developers at Yoast learn from each other, but they also learn from all the other developers in the WordPress ecosystem. Because of that, because they learn from so many, different developers, they quickly improve themselves. They become better developers. I really think that people severely underestimate how important this is.”

Who’s next?

Any ideas on whom to interview next? Which open source fanatic should I reach out to? Let me know!

Read more: Why our mission is: SEO for everyone »

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Pinterest is a pretty popular platform these days. It’s basically a search engine, with a social aspect. So, making your images appealing for sharing on Pinterest can be a great idea. And not just if you have a mom-blog or DIY site! If you use Pinterest right, it can help you drive more traffic to your site, put your products in the spotlight, or gain more visibility for your business.

Pinterest images often have a specific ‘look’. Tall images are most compatible with the way the Pinterest feed is designed. Some text in the image can also work well, to get people’s attention and give them an idea of where the image will lead them. While an image like this is well-suited for Pinterest, you probably don’t want to put it on your website like that. But you still want to provide people who pin your image straight from your post with a good Pinterest image. So, what to do? There are ways to use HTML code to hide a Pinterest image ‘underneath’ the regular images in your post. That way, people get the tall Pinterest image when they pin from your post. But, what does Google think about such practices?

Blake Score emailed us her question on the subject:

What is your opinion about hiding Pinterest sized images in your post with HTML code? Doing this makes for a strong pin when people pin to Pinterest straight from your post. It seems to work from a Pinterest SEO perspective, but what does Google think?

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

Hiding Pinterest images in your post

I honestly don’t think Google minds as much, but I hate all the hacks I’m seeing around how people get their proper pages on Pinterest. So, we are currently talking to Pinterest about improving that entire workflow. About maybe allowing for specific meta tags for Pinterest, so that we can just put an image like that in a meta-tag and not have to put it hidden in a page, which is a dirty hack and can always lead to problems in the long run.

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So, for now it works. Keep doing it because it’s worth the traffic. In the long run, I hope we’ll come up with a better solution. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma you can’t find the answer to? Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read on: Pinterest Marketing for your business »

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For the bloggers who started building websites in the early 00s, blogging was ‘just’ writing an update on your life or writing a tutorial. Photos were  not usual and if you had photos, you made sure the title of the blog post contained something like: ‘warning: image heavy’. Today, you cannot imagine posting a blog without an image. Your post is less likely to be picked up on Facebook, Twitter and even Google. And as we all know, even the Yoast SEO plugin tells you to use images in your post! But… why do you use those images? And where do you get them from? Fear not! I’m going to share all my secrets with you. Again!

Why you should use images in your blog posts

My most popular posts on my blog are, not quite coincidentally, posts with high-quality images. A picture is worth a thousand words. And this holds very true for bloggers in a niche that’s saturated. If a visitor has to choose which site to visit on Pinterest or Facebook, they will choose one with an image that’s compelling to them. Sure, your call to action will have to persuade them as well, but if you don’t use images, or don’t use high-quality ones, they very well might skip your blog post.

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There’s another reason why you need proper images, other than social sharing: Google images. When you have high quality and optimized images, your images could rank first when people perform a Google image search. There are several posts I actually rank first with on Google Images. And does this give me visitors? Yes, it sure does!

Before you grab your camera…

Before you fear you have to invest in photography courses, have to hire a professional photographer or you just cannot create the right photos, read on. Because I’ve got some tips and tricks for you.

Use stock photos

If you cannot create your own photo for whatever reason, there are a lot of stock photo websites you can grab images from. Do not, and I repeat, not, Google search for images and just grab them. This is stealing. The photos you are placing on your website, belong to someone else. You need to have the photographer’s permission. You don’t want to see your blog post on someone else’s blog. A photographer does not like their photo on your site without permission. You wouldn’t be the first one to get a claim from a photographer, and rightfully so.

But if you can’t just grab every image, where should you find them? Luckily, there are quite a few stock photo websites out there that have licenses that permit you to use the photos. Please always check the licenses described on the website. Because I like you and because I’m feeling very helpful today, I’ve explored the licenses on the sites below.

Unsplash.com

Unsplash is my absolute favorite. The images on here are gorgeous, the website is easy to navigate and the licensing is very clear. All photos published on Unsplash, are free for commercial and non-commercial use. You can alter the images if you wish without needing to give the photographer credit. I use this website for my personal blog quite often. Especially for blog posts about motherhood, when I don’t want to photograph my own child.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay has both paid and free images. A lot of images here do not require crediting the photographer. If you don’t have to credit and you can alter the image, you will find that the image is released under Creative Commons CC0.

Foter.com

Foter claims there are over 335 million free stock photos on its site. Just conduct a search. Each and every photo will display the license under which it’s listed. Some photos require credit to the photographer, some photos may not be altered and some may not be modified. It can be quite hard to find a picture you like here, especially if you have to make sure you comply with the licenses.

But what if my blog is about a subject I can’t find a photo for?

What if you write about blogging or programming? Or about showering, and you don’t want to have someone naked on your blog who’s enjoying their shampoo a tad too much? Be creative! You’re a blogger, a writer, you can be creative with images, can’t you? For that blogging article, use a (stock) photo of a laptop. And for that shower, use a shower head. Or just running water. Remember: the image does not replace your article, it’ll enhance it and grab your reader’s attention.

But what if you really, really, really cannot find a suitable image? Well, have you ever heard of Canva?

Canva is amazing

With Canva, you can create designs for every need in your browser. It holds a lot of free designs you can use. There are premade designs for Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, posters and more. With these designs, varying from drawings to quotes and photos, you’ll be able to find a suitable image for your blog post, I’m absolutely sure of it.

Say thanks

We’re lucky to live in a world where it’s very cheap to create your own website. Where you don’t have to pay for WordPress, you can use a lot of free plugins and become big without spending a dime on your website. You might be one of the few bloggers that make a living out of blogging. If so: that’s awesome. I have one request for you in that case: if you make money with your website and you do use stock photos, please consider thanking the photographer by donating a (small) amount to thank them for their work in making your website better. It’s up to you to decide if you wish to do this and if you have the means to do so, but I do believe ‘we bloggers’ owe quite a lot of thanks to the wonderful people out there who share their knowledge and resources for free.

Please let me know in the comments which stock photo websites you use that I haven’t heard of. Oh, and a game for you: spot the stock photos on my own personal blog ;)

Read more: Image SEO: Optimizing for search engines »

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While we’re still only at the start of the Gutenberg adventure, we’re presenting an awesome, brand-new feature for the new WordPress editor today. Meet the Yoast SEO structured data content blocks! The content blocks automatically add valid structured data code to the content that is added to these blocks. Our initial line-up consists of How-to and FAQ content blocks, plus address and map blocks for our Local SEO plugins, but we’re looking to add more in the future.

Optimize for synonyms and related keywords and prevent broken pages on your site with Yoast SEO Premium! »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Adding structured data in Gutenberg

Structured data is important but pretty hard to implement. By adding Schema.org structured data to your pages you can tell search engines exactly what’s on there. For most people implementing it comes down to asking their developer to hard-code it into the site. Or learning to master Google Tag Manager so you can inject the necessary code into your pages — this is what we teach you in our Structured data training. This complexity is one of the reasons structured data has been struggling to reach critical mass, even though Google has been pushing it for years. This is now changing with Gutenberg structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO 8.2!

As of today, we’re adding that structured data metadata automatically to the content that’s added to two new Gutenberg blocks inside Yoast SEO, namely How-to and FAQ. Local SEO and WooCommerce SEO have blocks for addresses and maps. So, if you have an FAQ page on your site you can now build these pages inside Gutenberg. Yoast SEO will automatically add the necessary Question Schema.org to that block. The same goes for How-to. Build your how-to article with the How-to content block in Gutenberg, including all the necessary steps and even images, and see a valid piece of structured data appear in the source of your page. It is now easier than ever for Google to find and understand that particular piece of content. Fantastic, right?

Our CEO Joost de Valk and CTO Omar Reiss explain the how and why of Yoast SEO structured data content blocks in this interview »

How-to structured data

How-to structured data is a fairly new addition to the Schema.org vocabulary. You use it to mark up content that teaches you how to do something following a series of steps. This could be how to cat-proof your apartment or how to install Yoast SEO Premium or something else entirely. We published a post a while back on how to add how-to structured data to your how-to articles. Please read that if you need more background information.

The structured data content blocks come with default styling, but we made it easy for you to change these. Our UX designer Luc wrote a post detailing how you can give the How-to content blocks your own styling so they fit right in with the rest of your site. There will be a post about styling your FAQ content blocks later on.

Using the Gutenberg How-to structured data content blocks is incredibly easy.

  1. Choose the Yoast SEO structured data block for How-to
  2. Type the description for the how-to
  3. Enter the time needed to do the how-to
  4. Fill in the first step title
  5. Fill in supporting text for the step
  6. If necessary, add an image using the Add image button
  7. Hit the Add step button to add a new step
  8. Use the Insert step button to insert a new step between existing steps
  9. Done? Save your draft!

Here’s an example how-to on how to install Yoast SEO Premium:How-to content blockAnd here’s what Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool says of that page:the result in the structured data testing toolEpic, right? Remember, due to restrictions by Google it is not possible to add more than one How-to content block on a page.

Want to dive into the mark-up and styling of our HowTo block? Read this post from our UX designer Luc.

FAQ structured data

If you have a section on your site for frequently asked questions — an FAQ— then you’ll enjoy the new FAQ structured data content block. Schema.org/Question is “A specific question – e.g. from a user seeking answers online, or collected in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.” You can now easily add the structured data needed for search engines to understand FAQ content. Just fill in the questions, add the answers and maybe an image if needed. Hit publish and your perfectly structured FAQ block is ready!

Local SEO & WooCommerce SEO with Gutenberg blocks

Of course, we had to give some of our other SEO WordPress plugins some Gutenberg love as well. Do you own a local business or are you doing a lot of local SEO? If so, you need our Local SEO or WooCommerce SEO plugins. These plugins help you to improve your site so it can more easily rank in your local search results.

Today, the two local SEO plugins get structured data content blocks for Gutenberg as well: you can now add valid structured data to your site by adding the new address block. The fields will appear automatically if you’ve filled in the fields in the plugin settings. Of course, you can finetune what you do and don’t want to appear. In addition, you can use the new Google Maps structured data content block to easily add a good looking map with structured data to your site.Address content block

More to come

Gutenberg’s block-based design makes it a very interesting platform to design for. These structured data content blocks are our first tools specifically built for the new WordPress editor. We hope to expand our offering of structured data blocks in the near future. We can’t wait to bring you blocks for job postings, events and recipes, among others! And please, do give us your feedback so we can make these blocks even more awesome.

Polish readability analysis

Yoast SEO 8.2 also brings a new supported language: Polish! We can now analyze text written in Polish and make suggestions to improve the readability. In addition, we will now also suggest articles to link to using our internal linking tool in Yoast SEO Premium. The Polish readability analysis was made possible by contributions from the community. We’re thankful for the great support from the people at Macopedia, who sent us word lists which make a vital part of our analysis. We’re always super enthusiastic when people in the community show us their love for our products and also a commitment to the open source spirit by contributing to our code base!

Bug fixes and enhancements

As always, we’ve fixed a couple of annoying bugs. This time we focused on fixing bugs related to slugs, user input incorrectly triggering analyses, zooming issues on iPhones and several others. You can read up on them in the changelog. We do want to thank mt8, who helped us fix a bug related to OpenGraph images that wouldn’t correctly show for the front page in a couple of situations.

Update now!

Yoast SEO 8.2 is a very exciting release. With the launch of the structured data content blocks for Gutenberg, we’re heading into unknown and very exciting territory. We can’t wait to see what you do with the current set of blocks and hope to bring even more blocks to you in the near future. Try it, tell us what you think and enjoy using Yoast SEO 8.2!

Read more: Why you should buy Yoast SEO »

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Generic reports in Google Analytics contain aggregated data, data from all the things on one big pile. That’s a lot of information, but not very specific. So, if you’re just monitoring your data, you might manage that by looking at the standard data you see in Google Analytics. But, if you want to go beyond that, to thoroughly analyze your data, you need more context. One of the (easy) ways you can add context to your data is by adding secondary dimensions. Gotten curious? Read on!

What are secondary dimensions?

To explain what secondary dimensions are, we need to explain what dimensions are first. I’ve written a post about dimensions (and metrics) in which you can read that:

A dimension is a description, a characteristic, a feature or aspect of your data. It’s not a quantitative variable but more a qualitative variable.

So, it’s quite often letters instead of numbers. Let me give you a concrete example: in Google Analytics’ reports, the first column of the table is always a dimension:

First dimension in Google Analytics

In this case, ‘Country’ is a dimension. Now, what you can do, is click on the first country you see in your reports. This will take you to a more specified report about the country you’ve clicked on: you’ll see regions. Now, these regions can sometimes be clicked on as well. That depends on the country. If you want to see cities, you can add a secondary dimension. Here’s how:

Add city to region report in Google Analytics

Click on the ‘Secondary dimension’ button you see above the first column. If you know the name of the dimension you want to add, you can enter that in the search bar. Otherwise, you need to scroll around a bit to find what you’re looking for.

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Why should I use secondary dimensions?

In the previous example, you can see that adding a secondary dimension adds more information to your report. For instance, you could initially have concluded that it’s a good idea to run an advert campaign for all of California. But, if you had looked at city data as well, you might’ve concluded that it’s a good idea to run that campaign in LA only because that’s where all your traffic is coming from.

Another example to show you why you should use secondary dimensions in Google Analytics. Perhaps you’re interested in SEO: then you want to check your traffic coming from a search engine. That’s called ‘Organic traffic’ in Google Analytics. Seeing how much traffic you’re getting from Organic is fun, of course. But, it has the potential to be much more informative than just knowing how many users and sessions you’ve had. It’s really interesting to check which of your site’s pages users land on (called ‘Landing Page’ in Google Analytics). Here’s how you do that:

Going to the Medium Organic report in Google Analytics

  1. Go to the ‘Acquisition’ section in the left sidebar
  2. Click on ‘Source/Medium’
  3. Then click on ‘Medium’, it’s above the table
  4. Click on ‘organic’ to see all traffic from search engines

Adding landing page to organic report in Google Analytics

Then, it’s time to add the secondary dimension: ‘Landing Page’. Click on the button above the first column of the table and look for ‘Landing Page’, and click on that. Now, you have a nice overview of all pages that people land on that come from a search result in a search engine. Look at the numbers you’re seeing: what’s the bounce rate? Did they stay for long? Did they buy anything? And are the pages you’re seeing, the pages you want to rank with? What can you do to optimize further?

Which secondary dimensions should I use?

Now, doing all this can be very hard, that’s why you should always have a question in mind when opening your Google Analytics reports. Because that question will dictate which dimension you should add to your reports. Of course, if you’re like me, you often open Google Analytics without a question in mind because you just want to play a bit, have a look around.

For those of you who play and also for those of you who have a specific question, there’s a new feature in Google Analytics that helps you with picking a useful secondary dimension. Look at this:

recommended secondary dimensions

Now that’s awesome! It shows you which dimensions are commonly used in a report, in this case, the ‘Source/Medium’ report. That’s valuable advice!

If you’re using UTM tags properly, the secondary dimension brings a lot of context to your reports. Let’s say you’ve started a campaign and also added the utm_content UTM tag: you can add that as a secondary dimension, called ‘Ad Content’ in Google Analytics. Then, you can find out which item of your campaign, for instance, a text link or a button was more successful.

Conclusion

Using secondary dimensions in Google Analytics gives your data so much more meaning. It adds context to your data, allowing you to understand what you’re seeing better. And with more understanding about what your data actually means, it’s easier to draw the right conclusions. In other words, using secondary dimensions is a MUST in Google Analytics.

Read more: Annelieke’s analytics: What are dimensions and metrics in Google Analytics? »

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