Imagine visiting an online shop, and receiving a notification from your browser that this site is not secure. You’re probably not so eager to buy something there and provide this website with private or sensitive information. Well, both your visitors and Google most likely agree. In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would become a ranking signal. So it’s definitely something to take into account as a website owner. But getting an SSL certificate and moving your website to HTTPS can be difficult, as we at Yoast know all too well. If you don’t do it right, it can have a negative impact on your rankings. But what about the other way around? In this Ask Yoast, I discuss what to do if you suspect your rankings have lowered because you don’t have an SSL layer.

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training Info

Larry Launstein Jr. emailed us a question on this subject.

How do you optimize a site that has been lowered in the rankings because of lack of an SSL layer? Is there a workaround
for this, or does it need to get an SSL layer no matter what?

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

Lower rankings without HTTPS?

“So what can you do to optimize a site that has lost rankings, because of lack of an SSL layer or basically because of lack of HTTPS? Well, if all of your competitors have HTTPS and you don’t, at some point you might start losing some rankings because of that.

But I honestly do not believe that that is your only ranking problem if you have a ranking problem. But does every website need HTTPS in the future? Yes. Should you thus be doing that right now if you’re working on your site? Yes, by all means.

If you do migrate, though, make sure that all the old URLs redirect properly to the new ones and, basically, get an SSL certificate and thus HTTPS for your entire site as soon as possible. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Ask Yoast: redirecting your site to non-www and HTTPS’ »

The post Ask Yoast: Lower rankings without HTTPS? appeared first on Yoast.

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

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training Info

Create your website with SEO in mind

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

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

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

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

The technical side of things

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

Speed optimization

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

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

URL Structure

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

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

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

Heading tags

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

It’s simple:

Make it responsive

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

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

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

Local optimization

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

Apple NY Knowledge Graph

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

Track your traffic

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

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

Get your technical aspects right

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

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

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

We recently made some changes to how yoast.com is run as a shop and how it’s hosted. In that process, we accidentally removed our robots.txt file and caused a so-called spider trap to open. In this post, I’ll show you what a spider trap is, why it’s problematic and how you can find and fix them.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

What is a spider trap?

A spider trap is when you create a system that creates unlimited URLs. So Google can spider a page and find 20 new URLs on it. If it then spiders those 20 URLs, it finds 20 * 20 new URLs. If it then spiders those 400 URLs, it finds 400 * 20 = 8,000 new URLs. This escalates quickly, as you can see. If each and every one of these URLs were unique and wonderful, this would not be a problem, but usually, they’re not. So this causes a massive duplicate content problem.

A spider trap is bad for your SEO because every time Google crawls (or “spiders”) a page in your trap, it’s not crawling actual content on your site. Your new, high quality, super-valuable content might get indexed later, or not at all, because Google is spending its precious time in your trap. And the content it is crawling is deemed as duplicate and lessens how Google sees your site overall. This is why solving spider traps is important for SEO, and especially if you’re thinking about crawl budget optimization.

What do spider traps look like?

Our spider was one of a very particular type. We have a tool here on yoast.com called Yoast Suggest. It helps you mine Google Suggest for keyword ideas. When you enter a word into it, it returns the suggestions Google gives when you type that word into Google. The problem is: Google, when given a search box, will start throwing random words into it. And the results then have links for more results. And Google was thus trapping itself.

You might think that this is a nice story and spider traps never happen in real life. Unfortunately, they do. Faceted navigation on web shops often creates hundreds of thousands of combinations of URL parameters. Every new combination of facets (and thus URL parameters) is a new URL. So faceted navigation done poorly very often results in trapping the spider.

Another common cause of spider traps is when a site has date pages. If you can go back one day, to get a new date, and then back, and back, and back, you get a lot of pages. In my time as a consultant for the Guardian, we found Google spidering a date in the year 1670. It had gone back through our online archives, which went back almost 20 years at that point, to find nothing for more than 300 years…

How to recognize a spider trap

The easiest way to recognize a spider trap is by looking at your access logs. These logs contain a line for every visit to your site. Now as you can imagine, on larger sites your access logs get big very quickly. Here at Yoast, we use a so-called ELK-stack to monitor our website’s logs, but I’ve personally also used SEO log file analyzer by Screaming Frog to do this.

Logs from an ELK stack, showing a graph of indexing, URLs, timestamp, user agents and more

An example of logs in our ELK stack

What you’re looking to do is look at only Googlebot’s visits, and then start looking for patterns. In most cases, they’ll jump straight at you. It’s not uncommon for spider traps to take up 20-30% or even larger chunks of all the crawls. If you can’t find them immediately, start grouping crawls, looking for patterns within URLs. You can start from the beginning of the URL, provided you have clean URLs. If your URLs are slightly more cumbersome, you’ll have to create groups manually.

An ELK stack makes this very easy because you can search and segment quickly:

An example of filtering for the word "SEO" within our Googlebot hits in our ELK stack

An example of filtering for the word “SEO” within our Googlebot hits

How do you solve a spider trap?

Solving a spider trap can be a tricky thing. In our case, we don’t want /suggest/ to be indexed at all, so we just blocked it entirely with robots.txt. In other cases, you cannot do that as easily. For faceted navigation, you have to think long and hard about which facets you’d like Google to crawl and index.

In general, there are three types of solutions:

  1. Block (a section of) the URLs with robots.txt.
  2. Add rel=nofollow and noindex,follow on specific subsets of links and pages and use rel=canonical wisely.
  3. Fix the trap by no longer generating endless amounts of URLs.

In the case of the Guardian, we could simply prevent linking to dates where we had no articles. In the case of Yoast.com’s suggest tool, we simply blocked the URL in robots.txt. If you’re working with faceted search, the solution is, usually and unfortunately, not that simple. The best first step to take is to use a form of faceted search that doesn’t create crawlable URLs all the time. Checkboxes are better than straight links, in that regard.

In all, finding and closing a spider trap is one of the more rewarding things an SEO can do to a website. It’s good fun, but can certainly also be hard. If you have fun examples of spider traps, please do share them in the comments!

Read more: ‘Robots.txt: the ultimate guide’ »

The post Closing a spider trap: fix crawl inefficiencies appeared first on Yoast.

If you own a website, you have probably, at some point, thought about your preferred URL. Perhaps you chose between www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com straight away and never thought about it again. Or maybe you switched to or from www at one point. While in the early days of the internet www was the norm, these days a good many sites of great repute -Yoast.com included ;)- don’t use www. So, are there any SEO-implications to choosing either option? I’ll get into that in this Ask Yoast!

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin Info

Dirkje Evers emailed us her question on this subject:

A Dutch hosting company told me that it’s better for Google to use the domain www.exampledomain.nl instead of exampledomain.nl. Should I take their advice or not?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

Should I use www for Google or not?

“Dirkje Evers emailed us about a Dutch hosting company that had recommended to them that using www.example.nl was better than using just example.nl for Google. And whether they should take that advice or not. Well, no… That’s what we call…nonsense. In terms that I can use on video. Because I’m actually up to use some other terms. It’s absolutely nonsense, you don’t have to use www for anything. The only reason why you would use www.something is if people would otherwise not recognize your domain name as a domain name. Which is something that is bound to happen, if you have a somewhat older target audience. But other than that use whatever you want. Use www or do not use www, whatever rocks your boat.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Redirecting your site to non-www and https’ »

The post Ask Yoast: www or no www? appeared first on Yoast.

This is the final post in an 8-part series on how to rank your business for local searches at Google. Previously, I’ve listed the most important aspects that influence your local ranking, discussed how to get the most out of  Google My Business, covered best practices for on-site optimization. I’ve also given you some ideas for building inbound links and how to build citations, explained the importance of reviews, and the relative unimportance of social signals. Here, I’ll take a look at the most nebulous but potentially most influential component of local rankings: behavioral signals.

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show your opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress plugin Info

Making local search reflect offline reality

As one of the most pervasive companies on the planet, Google has as much data about our behavior as any company in human history. They’ve been slower to use that data to inform local search rankings than many of us might have guessed, but recent company announcements and algorithmic updates suggest that may be changing.

Experts in the Local Search Ranking Factors survey have pegged these signals at about 11%, but included in this 11% is the overall most-important factor as well as several competitive difference-makers.

Only Google has a full picture of user behavior, so it’s the blackest of Google’s many algorithmic black boxes. Thus, many of the specific behavioral ranking signals I list below are either hypothetical or too new to have been tested by SEO practitioners.

But Google’s longstanding mission in local search has been to reflect the real world as accurately as possible online. A reflection based on data from real-world human beings will be far more accurate than one based on data from digital-world webpages and robots. It stands to reason that as Google can gather more of this real-world behavioral data, it will grow in algorithmic importance for rankings.

Let’s take a look at some of the behavioral data Google is likely using to inform local rankings, from most primitive to most advanced.

Location of searcher

Google has always been very good at detecting location on mobile phones (perhaps obviously). Now, they are scarily good even for desktop searches. And while it’s hard to describe something as sophisticated as detecting a user’s location as “primitive,” the algorithmic outcome of that location is relatively straightforward.

The distance of a business from the location where a search is being performed influences how well it ranks for those searches. All other factors being equal, the closer the business to the point of search, the higher it will rank. (In fact, the experts of the Local Search Ranking Factors rated this criterion #1 in 2017.)

Beyond numeric rankings, the radius of businesses Google considers proximally relevant varies somewhat by category, as the below screenshots illustrate. (Note the zoom level of the map for searches performed from my office in central Portland.)

coffee shops portland

roofing companies portland

golf courses portland

High-frequency brick-and-mortar businesses like coffee shops have a tighter radius of relevance. Low-frequency or service-area businesses like golf courses or roofing companies have a wider radius.

If your business lies outside this relevancy radius from the search locations of large groups of your customers (for instance, a golf course west of Beaverton or east of Gresham in the screenshot above), you’re going to have a tough time attracting those customers via Google.

Branded search volume

In a way, branded searches are a kind of citation: if corroborated by information in Google’s business database, they’re an expression of interest in that business (if not an out-and-out endorsement). While branded searches are an incredibly basic indicator of the awareness or popularity of a business, most Internet users perform these on a regular basis, making them one of the most democratic ranking signals.

Beyond just the number of times a brand name is searched (and searched by people in a given geographic area), the context of those brand names is important as well. Adjacent keywords used in those searches that rank for future unbranded searches for those keywords.

Generally, branded searches favor established businesses over new ones, and businesses that take a holistic approach to marketing (including offline). They’re one of Google’s best heuristics for word-of-mouth as it tries to build its reflection of the offline world.

Click Through Rate

There’s an endless discussion around Click Through Rate (CTR) as a ranking factor in organic search. Evidence from two respected researchers Rand Fishkin and Darren Shaw, however, strongly suggests that it has at least a temporary impact on local results.

belltown

At MozCon 2014, Rand used audience clickthrough participation to move the rankings needle during his presentation for a local Seattle wedding boutique. (He’s also found evidence for the impact of CTR on organic results, too.)

local result shaw

Darren Shaw performed some longer-term studies later in 2014. He demonstrated that in some markets like personal injury law and accounting CTR had at least some effect on improving rankings.

The theory is that the more people that click on your listing or website in a given search result, the more times it will show up for similar searches in the future. CTR is one step up from a branded search. CTR is an indication, if not endorsement, that the searcher thinks the destination listing or website will be relevant to her query.

Google has never shared information about the inner workings of this ranking factor (and in fact has explicitly obfuscated its usage at all). But SEO practitioners suspect there’s a mechanism involving CTR relative to position on page. After all, the top couple of results are always going to get the lion’s share of clicks.

You can improve your organic CTR with more compelling Title Tags and Meta Descriptions on your webpages. Your Google My Business listings have fewer options, but a superior review profile (both star rating and volume) will definitely help you stand out from the competition and earn more than your share of clicks.

Personalization

Since the introduction of Google+, the account infrastructure underlying Google’s products (Search, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, etc.) has been largely unified. As a result, we’re all perpetually logged in to the same account on every device. On some devices, like Android phones and Google Home, require users to log into their Google accounts before using them.

While Google+ may have failed as a social network, as a tracking and data-gathering mechanism it’s been a smashing success. It’s now trivial for Google to track us from desktop to mobile to tablet, from Gmail to Maps to YouTube to Search and back again. Our behavior in each product and on each device informs what we see in different products on different devices.

Examples of Google tracking

Below are just a few examples of how that happens:

  • Websites you’ve visited (and engaged with) in the past are more likely to get a rankings bump in future searches for which that website is relevant.
  • Knowing the location of your logged-in phone may inform desktop search results performed from the same account, as it’s a safe assumption for Google that our phones are always by our sides.
  • Businesses and websites that have sent receipts to your Gmail account may rank better for future keywords in the same category. To see for yourself, search “hotel reservations” for a result similar to the screenshot below.

hotel reservations

From searcher to searcher, and keyword to keyword, every search result is increasingly personalized. At a practical level, this means that it’s increasingly difficult to track keyword rankings, as everyone sees a slightly different result.

At a strategic level, it means you should do everything you can to engage your customers with reasons to return to your website, engage with your email newsletter, and share your business with their friends and family via email and text. Google is probably monitoring all of those visits and shares. It may use them to inform future search results for those customers, friends, and family, even if they don’t convert on their initial visit.

Knowledge Panel interactions

As Google displays more and more Knowledge Panel results, the percentage of clickthroughs to webpages has dropped to under 50%. But that doesn’t mean searchers are no longer clicking at all: increasingly clicks are happening within Knowledge Panels.

These Knowledge Panel click throughs are far stronger endorsements of a business’s relevance for a given query than a website visit. They’re a direct indication of a desire to transact with the business.

Phone calls

Google has offered mobile click to call functionality since January 2010. Even as early as February 2014, 40% of searchers had used it.

Driving directions

Where a phone call indicates a desire to learn more about a business, a request for driving directions is an even stronger indicator that a searcher intends to visit that business. It’s the strongest of all purely digital signals that a business is relevant for a particular query.

Bookings (where available)

Google has long offered users the ability to make bookings with hotels and restaurants directly from the Knowledge Panel through partnerships with Expedia, OpenTable, and others. Jennifer Slegg recently reported Google expanded this feature to wellness and fitness categories through partnerships with booking services like MindBody. I expect we’ll see the pace of these partnerships pick up rapidly in other verticals. Businesses can now even “roll their own” booking buttons with the new Appointment URL feature.

By offering this in-SERP interactivity with a business directly through Knowledge Panels, Google not only reduces the number of clicks to business websites but can collect more data about how searchers view a business.  This data surely influences rankings, though as with most behavioral signals, only Google knows just how much.

In-store visits

It’s a reasonable expectation that Google is tracking our on-SERP and click behavior online. But in the last couple of years, Google has moved from reasonable to downright creepy. Through its perpetual location-tracking of Android users and iOS users with the Google Maps app installed, it has a near-complete picture of our offline behavior as well. We see the outcome of this 360-degree tracking in the Popular Times section of many business’s Knowledge Panels, such as the one for Apex seen here.

Google aggregates location data from any person it can–whether they’ve searched for a business or not–and puts that data front-and-center on that business’s Knowledge Panel. It even tracks how long people stay at a given business, and whether the businesses is busier or less busy than usual.

This complete offline tracking helps Google offer its advertisers a “closed loop” of data as to whether online ads lead to offline visits. To think that Google isn’t using this same closed loop of data for its own local algorithm defies belief.

But even for Google, there are privacy limits (at least for now). In 2015, it decided to scrap a feature that would have allowed advertisers to send push notifications based on a user’s location.

Regardless of your feelings about whether knowing a business’s popularity before you visit is an acceptable tradeoff of your privacy, offline visits are surely the ranking signals which help Google identify local popularity and relevance most accurately — and they can’t be optimized.

Offline transactions

Google has surprisingly struggled to find success in the mobile payment space. Google Wallet was essentially a failure, and Android Pay has continued to lag even Samsung Pay in consumer adoption (both are far behind Apple Pay). Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore data from 24 million consumers. Particularly in industries with frequent purchases like supermarkets, coffee shops, and gas stations, the volume of Android Pay transactions could well be seen as a reasonable indicator of the offline popularity of a business.

But Google is not only looking at mobile payments — it’s now looking at all payments. Earlier in 2017, Google announced a partnership with credit card companies to track some 70% of all consumer purchases. In the United States, this partnership is already the subject of a federal privacy complaint. There seem to be few privacy advocates in any branch of government, though.

Transaction volume will naturally favor big businesses with lots of customers, but historically Google has tended to favor smaller ones in its local search results. But I do expect this high-quality, highly-personalized signal to play at least some role in rankings moving forward.

Summary

Many of the ranking factors above were not available to Google when it launched its local algorithm in 2008, or even as recently as 3-4 years ago. And it may be another 3-4 years before we start to see some of the more sophisticated ones influence rankings dramatically. But together I see them gaining more influence than any other piece of the ranking puzzle.

Collectively most of these metrics, along with customer reviews, portend a much stronger and more sophisticated algorithm based on engagement. The more Google shifts its local algorithm in this direction, the less it has to rely on weak proxies of popularity like backlinks and citations, which are only implemented and controlled by an infinitesimal fraction of the population.

You may be frustrated by the lack of tactical recommendations in this final installment of the series. The reality is, there’s very little you can do to game these signals. A local algorithm based on engagement benefits great businesses doing good marketing–a worthy outcome we should all support.

Series Conclusion

Local search has become a multi-faceted paradox in the last couple of years. While the algorithm has evolved to reward more real-world behavior, the SERP interface is rewarding more technical tactics like Schema markup and rich snippets.

And while the sophistication of Google’s algorithm and the number of local businesses who are paying attention to SEO make it harder than ever to rank, the payoff may be lower as fewer businesses win organic real estate above the fold.

But Google isn’t going away anytime soon. Organic search results will continue to be an important customer acquisition channel far into the future. Regardless of how Google changes over time, the techniques I’ve laid out in this guide should help position your business effectively for whatever the next innovations are!

Thanks to the Yoast team for the opportunity to share my suggestions experience with this community! If you want to keep up with my thoughts moving forward, you can subscribe to my newsletter. While you’re there, I hope you’ll check out my Tidings email newsletter product.

I wish you all success with your businesses!

Read on

Other parts in the Ranking your local business series:

  1. An introduction to ranking your local business
  2. The importance of Google My Business
  3. How to optimize your website for local search
  4. Why inbound links are so important and how to get them
  5. Citations for local search
  6. The impact of reviews for local ranking
  7. Social media and local SEO
  8. The impact of behavioral signals

The post Ranking your local business part 8: Behavioral Signals appeared first on Yoast.

It’s a common misconception that the internet is the ultimate learning environment. Yes, you can find everything you need, for free, but the information you end up with is not always trustworthy. It’s scattered, often outdated and sometimes contradictory. So if you want to learn all about a particular subject, you might be better off signing up for an online course. Yoast offers all kinds of SEO courses in its Academy, with great success. Marieke, who is responsible for most of the courses, explains how Yoast Academy came about.

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

Basic SEO training Info

All SEO courses in the Yoast Academy are on sale. Get your favorite course and save 11%! »

“We first had the idea for the Academy when Yoast reached its fifth birthday. We had already successfully published an ebook called ‘Optimizing your WordPress site’  – now called SEO for WordPress – and a second one was in the works. But we wanted to combine our knowledge in a new way, something more engaging and hands-on because not everyone wants to read a book or a hundred blog posts to get to the bottom of a subject. That’s when our courses were born,” Marieke explains.

DIY SEO

Yoast Academy is the go-to place if you want to teach yourself SEO. So far, we’ve written eBooks on SEO for WordPress, UX & conversion, content SEO, and shop SEO. On top of that, you can find a selection of in-depth courses on site structure, SEO copywriting, Yoast SEO for WordPress, basic SEO and technical SEO. The latest course added to the academy is Structured data and there are several currently in development, and this is only the beginning.

According to Marieke, the Academy is an excellent addition to Yoast’s line of products: “Yoast Academy fits perfectly within our company mission. At Yoast, we want to make it possible for everyone to build a findable website and by sharing our knowledge we can help people to do that. It’s also one of the reasons we make our content available in different formats. Besides, we are great proponents of open source and give away a good deal of what we know for free. A lot of what we teach is freely available on our site, but also expanded and republished in the form of a course or an eBook.”

Efficient, complete and of great quality

One of the first things people will say when given the option to pay for an eBook or course on SEO or whatever other subject, is that you can find everything you want online, for free. Marieke: “Sure, that’s true. If you have enough time and perseverance, you can indeed find everything you want. But we’ve found that a course package is much more efficient, to the point and complete. If you just read posts on yoast.com, the information is fairly focused. But if you surf the web looking for answers, you’ll quickly get outdated and sometimes contradictory advice. Our courses are exhaustive, up to date and well-thought-out. They offer a great mix of practice and theory. Also, the quizzes let you test your new-found knowledge and make sure it sticks.”

The SEO courses in the Yoast Academy have been well-received. Matt LeClear, one of the first participants in the Structured data training, found that Google rewarded his site with rich snippets within a day after applying the knowledge he gathered from the training:

“As a result of what I learned from the Structured data training, my agency is now running Schema audits on our clients’ sites. We’re finding big time opportunities to increase their traffic levels. Those are opportunities I would have missed without Yoast Structured Data Training. If you run an agency yourself, I recommend you take the course. Period.”

Developing material

A course that takes several hours to complete is a different animal compared to a blog post or even an eBook. A good course is well-structured, in-depth and engaging. It has to be an enjoyable experience, and it shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. This is quite a challenge, acknowledges Marieke: “It’s not hard to come up with subjects and material, but it’s the structure and activities that make it a challenging product to build.”

Marieke draws upon past experience to make sure the courses are top-notch: “In the past, I developed a lot of educational material while working at a university. I created several courses and studied different theories on how to produce quality educational material. At Yoast, Joost and I create every course. It’s a complicated and tough process. Jesse, our Academy lead, helps us find the perfect subjects, structure, tone and supporting materials. That way, we know for certain that the course achieves what we set out to do.”

“That’s not to say we think our courses are perfect. They aren’t and probably never will be. But, we are working on them and using customer feedback to improve them. Jesse has lots of experience developing new courses. Plus, he’s an excellent English teacher. Jesse will dive deeper into the theory behind our courses. He’ll make sure that the foundations of our courses are solid and will improve where necessary,” Marieke says.

Keeping things on track

In general, if there is one thing almost all online courses have to cope with, it’s the high drop-off rate. It’s something Marieke noticed as well: “Yeah, it’s hard to keep students on track in online courses. It’s always disappointing to see that a certain percentage of customers never finish the course.”

The missing link could well be the human touch, says Marieke: “I think it would help if we could give our courses a more personal feeling. Take our SEO copywriting course for example. During the course, our students need to send in two assignments. These assignments are hand-checked by our SEO experts, and students get a tailored reply with valuable feedback. This works great; students love to hear from us. Although expensive to produce, this is something we might expand in the future. Another thing I’m contemplating is an SEO copywriting course with a personal coach for one-on-one support. Another helpful tool to enhance the personal aspect of our Academy would be a place for Yoast Academy students to get together, like a private Facebook group so that people can help each other.”

Want rich snippets for your site? Try our Structured data training »

Structured data training Info

Much more to come

Yoast Academy is growing fast; it is the fastest-growing product group in Yoast’s portfolio. Marieke and her team are making progress with new courses and improving and updating current courses. But, it doesn’t stop there, says Marieke: “The current courses touch on a wide range of SEO-related subjects. In the future, we will expand our offerings, but we’re also thinking about a different model. If possible, I’d want to work with a more modular approach. There has to be a way to tailor a course to the specific requirements of a student. Not everyone starts at the same level and with the same knowledge and I’d like a system that adapts where you can pick and choose from suggested subjects.”

Keep an eye on Yoast Academy! Our most recent course on structured data was a big success and we’re actively working on the next one: multi-lingual SEO. Why don’t you try one and see what all the fuss is about!

Read more: ‘Learning didactics Yoast Academy’ »

The post Yoast Academy: Teach yourself SEO appeared first on Yoast.

Do you want to make sure your site outranks your competition? Then you should learn the ins and outs of SEO and become an SEO expert yourself. Setting up a successful SEO strategy can be quite hard. Investing in your skills will definitely pay off though. After all, you yourself are the very best expert on your brand, your site, and your niche. So, how do you become an SEO expert?

All SEO courses in the Yoast Academy are on sale. Get your favorite course now and save 11%! »

Dive into SEO

Learn how to optimize on all aspects in our All-in-one training bundle!

All-in-one training bundle Info
Start reading. A lot. All the information you need is out there. We recommend reading our Yoast.com blog of course ;-). But also check out Moz and Search Engine Land. These are must reads if you want to become an SEO expert. Also, make sure to follow these SEO specialists on Twitter. There are many interesting SEO discussions on Twitter. Try to follow both companies, as well as individual SEOs to gain different perspectives. And join some Facebook groups on SEO. That’ll give you lots of information too.

If you want to know more about what Google is up to, you should read SEO by the Sea. Bill Slawski checks out all the software patents of Google. This is a great tactic to learn more about the mysteries of the Google algorithm. Search Engine Roundtable is another great source if you want to know the ins and outs of what Google is up to. Search Engine Roundtable writes about every single test Google does. You won’t miss a thing!

Too daunting? Check out a training

Learning SEO by reading all these (awesome) SEO blogs can be rather difficult and time-consuming. The information is mostly written for people who already know quite a lot about SEO. At Yoast, we also offer SEO basics, posts written specifically for people who just started out in SEO. Moz and Search Engine Land also have guides for people who just started out.

For those of you who want to learn SEO with a bit more help, Yoast developed several online SEO courses. We have courses that teach you:

We’ll teach you how to tackle different aspects of SEO, step by step with lots of training videos, reading material and many challenging questions.

Two types of SEO experts

There are basically two types of SEO experts. The developers who learned marketing and the marketers that learned code. SEO has both technical aspects and marketing aspects. The technical aspects have to do with the indexing and crawlability of your website. The marketing aspects include content, site structure, and linking structure.

In order to be an all-around SEO expert, you’ll need to know both sides of SEO. And these two sides are rather different. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to most developers. That’s a whole new ball game. And, for some marketers, the technical stuff can be terrifying. But don’t despair: our technical SEO course and our structured data training are great tools to get your technical skills up to scratch.

In short

Becoming an expert at something is never easy. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll be well on your way to SEO expertise. As we have seen, there are many ways to master SEO, and in the end, it’ll pay off. So, think about the best way for you to learn SEO, and go for it!

Read more: ‘Yoast Must Reads’ »

The post How to become an SEO expert appeared first on Yoast.

It’s important to have breadcrumbs on your website. They show users how a page fits into the structure of a site, and allow search engines to determine the site’s structure. But how do you go about implementing breadcrumbs when you have many products that fit into more than one category? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll discuss the best way to handle breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories.

Niall Diamond emailed us an interesting question:

“When you have a product within multiple categories each page will have a canonical URL that is the same, but what about the breadcrumb for the canonical URL page?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page!

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 trainingBuy Technical SEO 1 training Info

Handling breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories

“Well Niall, there is one primary category for that product and if you use our Yoast SEO breadcrumbs then it will always show that primary category in the breadcrumbs. If you use another system of using breadcrumbs……well, don’t. Because most systems can’t handle this in a proper way. So switch to using Yoast SEO breadcrumbs and this will be fixed for you. Good luck!”

Read on: ‘What are breadcrumbs and why are they important for SEO?’ »

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

 

The post Ask Yoast: Breadcrumbs for products in multiple categories appeared first on Yoast.

In WordPress, content can be grouped using categories and tags by default. WordPress calls these groups taxonomies. When you are serious about your content and have a lot of it, it will pay off to create other groups as well. By creating these custom taxonomies, you’re making your life as a content writer easier. More importantly, you’ll structure your website to your best effort for your visitors. They’ll be able to locate content that’s relevant to them and find related content more easily. This article will dive into the use of custom taxonomies.

Hierarchical versus non-hierarchical

WordPress introduced the concept of tags in version 2.3. As described by Wikipedia, a tag is ‘a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information.’ This means WordPress has had a hierarchical way of classifying information (categories), and a non-hierarchical way of organizing information (tags) since version 2.3. As far back as 2006 (!), people were discussing the fact that tags are not categories. The problem is that WordPress calls them both ‘taxonomies,’ but that’s not entirely correct. The word taxonomy assumes a hierarchy of sorts, as explained on another Wikipedia page

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

Site structure training$ 99 - Buy now » Info

With version 2.8, WordPress introduced custom taxonomies. Or actually, allowed easier access to the already available backend for custom taxonomies. These custom taxonomies can be either non-hierarchical (e.g. ‘tag’-like) or hierarchical (e.g. ‘category’-like). But for now, only the non-hierarchical taxonomies benefit from the smooth integration. These are more like actual taxonomies though, as they add a kind of hierarchy to the tag structure.

Let me give you an example: you could have a ‘People’ and a ‘Places’ taxonomy. Say, you write a new post and decide to add a keyword in the ‘People’ taxonomy. By doing that, you’re saying that it’s a keyword (or tag, if you want) of the type ‘People,’ so it is hierarchical in a way. But it also makes the keyword that much more informative, as it adds another layer of information.

Some years ago, Roy Huiskes made this visual for us by making a graphical explanation of the subject:

custom taxonomies

Fun fact: That People taxonomy section in the image above would include some more branches nowadays.

You can imagine using this for locations, or employees on a company site, but also writers on a book site, destinations on a travel site, etcetera. It groups items in a convenient way, both for maintenance and your visitors.

Custom taxonomies in WordPress

Adding custom taxonomies in WordPress isn’t that hard. To manually register a taxonomy, you can use the register_taxonomy() function. Most WordPress developers have probably used this one time or another, right?

WordPress.org has an example of how to approach this for a People taxonomy:

function people_init() {
	// create a new taxonomy
	register_taxonomy(
		'people',
		'post',
		array(
			'label' => __( 'People' ),
			'rewrite' => array( 'slug' => 'person' ),
			'capabilities' => array(
				'assign_terms' => 'edit_guides',
				'edit_terms' => 'publish_guides'
			)
		)
	);
}
add_action( 'init', 'people_init' );

This piece of code adds a meta box to your WordPress post edit screens, that looks like the tag box. It even works in the same way. I’m not a fan of tag clouds, but yes, in theory, you could even create a cloud for your new taxonomy. For a more in-depth explanation, check this post by wpmudev.org (2016).

These custom taxonomies can be public and private, which also makes them extremely useful for internal grouping of elements as well. I can imagine grouping VIP users, social influencers; you name it. 

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Note: (Custom) Taxonomies and Gutenberg

As Matt Cromwell describes, “Gutenberg is the future of content in WordPress. It will deliver the elegance of Medium but with far more power and flexibility of layouts and content types”. But Gutenberg is currently in development, and 99% of WordPress users probably won’t see any of it until it’s finished.

However, just last week, my colleague Tim added an issue to the WordPress/Gutenberg Github repo: Gutenberg shows private taxonomies in Category and Tag lists. Just dropping this here as a note, as I am sure the development team fixes this before releasing Gutenberg to the public. But if you are test-driving Gutenberg on a live site, and you are using custom taxonomies somewhere on that site, it could be something to check. Just to be sure!

How are you using custom taxonomies?

So, in conclusion, custom taxonomies can be very useful. If you have loads of content and want to create order, for both yourself and your users, you could use them.

That leaves me with two questions: Are you using custom taxonomies and if yes, how did you add these to your site? I’m looking forward to your answers in the comments!

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

Today, it’s time for another Ask Yoast case study. In this edition, we’ll give SEO advice to a local business owner. We received a cry for help from Hussein Ibrahim who owns the car services site seattletowncarbestride.com. Hussein wanted to know what he could do – apart from using our Yoast SEO Premium plugin – to get excellent rankings for his business in the major search engines. Well, Hussein, here we go!

Local SEO

If you want to improve this site’s SEO you have to focus on local SEO. Since Hussein’s business is a car and taxi rental service, he’s bound to a certain area: in this case Seattle. So it’s crucial that his site ranks for people who are searching for these kinds of car services in Seattle.

Structured data

There are 3 main things to keep in mind if you want to rank locally. The first one is adding structured data to your site. It’s important to have schema.org markup on at least your contact page, and you might consider adding it to the footer as well. Yoast’s Local SEO plugin can help you out with the first. It inserts Google Maps into your contact page, as well as your business address and opening hours. In addition to that, you might see this data pop up in the search results pages as well, if Google chooses to use rich results for your site. Seattle town car best ride currently doesn’t have any structured data, so we highly recommend to add it to their site!

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show your opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

In this article we’ll sum up what to pay attention to, when adding structured data to your local business site. Or learn how to implement structured data to your site with one of our online courses.

Google My Business

Additionally, you should let Google know you’re a local business owner by having a Google My Business account. This will help your site show up in the search results when people search for a car service in Seattle. Having this can also lead to rich results in the SERPs, such as a knowledge graph. Make sure that the address listed in your Google My Business account is the exact same address as displayed on your site, otherwise you won’t benefit from having this account.

Read more: ‘Ranking your local business: making the most of Google My Business’ »

Ratings and reviews

Having ratings and reviews on your site is important to make your business look trustworthy to your visitors. Moreover, it also helps Google determine whether your business is valuable for their users. Seattle Best Town Car Service should, therefore, implement a possibility for customers to give a rating for their services or write a testimonial on their site. This is something they can actively ask their customers to do after using their services.

Keep reading: ‘How to get local ratings and reviews’ »

Speeding up your site

Page speed is one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so it’s key to make sure your site loads fast. We did a page speed check for Seattle Town Cars Best Ride and this is what we found.

First of all, we’d advise Hussein to take a look at their hosting company. When using the PageSpeed Insights tool by Google, ‘reducing server response time’ was one of the recommendations. This is not something you can do yourself, but it depends on what kind of server your hosting company is offering. If they can’t speed up the response time, consider looking for a better hosting company.

Secondly, browser caching should be enabled for all types of files. This is not the case for some JPG and CSS files on seattletowncarbestride.com. Since this site runs on an Apache server, you can fix this easily within the Yoast SEO plugin. You can do this by specifying the expiration times in the htaccess file, which can be edited from within the Yoast SEO plugin. Watch this video to see how easy that is. In case your site is running on an Nginx server, you can ask your host to do this for you.

Last but not least, Seattle Town Cars Best Ride should optimize some of the images on their site. A list of the images that need compression can be found in the Pagespeed Insights tool. Compressing images will reduce the file size, which will make these images load quicker.

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

Taking care of your user’s needs

If people work on optimizing their site for search engines, they often tend to overlook user experience. But if your visitors seem to enjoy your site – which Google determines by analyzing so called user signals – this can positively affect your rankings. Google wants to offer the best search results and experience to their users. So don’t forget to always keep an eye on the usability of your site.

Seattle Town Cars Best Ride has quite some moving elements on their site, causing distraction and possibly negatively affecting the user experience. Especially on the homepage, the moving images get a little annoying when scrolling all the way down. Toning that down will give the site a much more focused and calmer appearance.

Also, a slider is used on the homepage. This is something we advice against at Yoast. The most important reason for that, in this case, is that the call-to-action disappears and reappears if the sliders changes. This makes it harder for the visitor to get to the page you want them to get to.

Images are an essential part of your site because they can make your site more attractive. Make sure they aren’t broken or missing, especially on the homepage this looks a bit unprofessional:

image missing homepage

Moreover, the white text in the slider isn’t always readable, because of the color of the background images. Try to avoid these kinds of contrast mistakes:

Writing content for both your visitors and Google

What we like about Seattle Town Car Best Ride is that they have separate landing pages for all the services they offer. That makes it possible to optimize every service for its own keywords. Therefore, their chances of ranking for every service will increase. The service pages also have some decent content which describes what the service is about. Keep in mind that you should at least write about 300 words on a page, to show Google that you really know what you are talking about. Because Google wants to show their users the best search results as possible, you should be able to convince Google you are an expert on that topic.

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

SEO copywriting training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Some pages of Seattle Town Car Best Ride could benefit from some extra attention though. The ‘Reservations’ page and ‘Rates’ page are lacking introductory content. Both can be seen as “thin content” pages by Google, decreasing their chance of ranking. Moreover, the ‘Reservations’ page has little content and a broken contact form. Always make sure that your visitors can reach you, otherwise there’s no point in optimizing your site at all.

Apart from visitors that – hopefully – read your content, Google tries to ‘read’ your content as well. Headings play an important role in understanding your content. Seattle Town Car Best Ride uses H1 and H2 headings to structure their text, but it uses the H1 twice on almost every page. Google could find this confusing because it assumes that the H1 describes the subject of the page. If there are multiple H1 headings, Google doesn’t know which one you deem most important.

The meta description is another important content element for SEO. A good meta description is crucial if you want to convince possible visitors to click through to your site. With a clear description, you can inform potential visitors what a page is about.

Seattle Town Car Best Ride is lacking a meta description on a lot of pages. This doesn’t mean the pages won’t show a description in the snippet in the search results, but Google itself will just pick a sentence from your page – which doesn’t always turns out bad. Sometimes Google will do that, even if you have created a meta description. Nevertheless, we think it is worth your while to write a strong meta description. If Google chooses to show it, it can make your snippet much more appealing.

Keeping up with the times

As Google and the internet changes and evolves, so does SEO. A few years ago, most sites were running on HTTP. Nowadays, you see more and more sites that use HTTPS for secure browsing. We encourage site owners to take this step, and so does Google. Google has said that having HTTPS is seen as a ranking signal. Seattle Town Car Best Ride isn’t running on HTTPS yet, so we definitely recommend to make this change. In general, your hosting company can help you switch to HTTPS.

Read more: ‘Moving your website to HTTPS/SSL: Tips and tricks’ »

Another important development in SEO is Google switching to mobile indexing first. This probably takes place in 2018, as they announced. As a result, Google will rank your site based on the mobile version of your site, instead of the desktop version. Google is doing this because more and more users are browsing on a mobile device instead of a desktop. So having a top notch mobile site should be everyone’s top priority.

Fortunately, Seattle Town Car Best Ride looks and works fine on mobile. What they should fix though, is their site’s speed for better performance on mobile, like mentioned above.

Mobile view of their homepage

Closing remarks

All in all, Seattle Town Car Best Ride, isn’t doing bad at all content-wise. They are clear about what services they offer and make sure that their visitors know how to contact them, by using call-to-actions near every content part. But they could definitely benefit from some local optimization. Adding structured data, creating a Google My Business account, and adding ratings and reviews to their site, makes clear to Google that they are a Seattle business that needs to be taken seriously!

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate Guide to small business SEO’ »