Do you want to increase chances people click on your page in the search results? Want to learn how to get those awesome rich snippets? Next week, we’ll launch our Structured data training. In this new training, you’ll learn how structured data can influence the appearance of your pages in the search results. After completing this course, you’ll be able to add structured data yourself, so Google can show a rich snippet.

Why take our structured data training?

A normal snippet of a recipe looks like this:

You see a title, a URL and a description of a page. If you add structured data to your page, Google (or another search engine) can transform your snippet into this:

So the structured data you add can show up in the snippet. For recipes you can add ratings and reviews, cooking time, calories and an awesome picture. Not only for recipes, but also for books, movies, articles, products etc. structured data exists.

Rich snippets let your page stand out from the other search results in Google. And if your page stands out in the search results, chances are much higher people will click on it.

Is adding structured data hard?

Adding structured data is not very hard, but you do need to know what you’re doing. After some training, everyone should be able to add structured data and get rewarded with those desired rich snippets!

We’ve created a very practical online training in which we take you through all the steps of adding structured data to a site. We’ll first explain the theory and then we’ll show you screencasts that will guide you through the steps you need to take. We’ll discuss multiple strategies you can use to add structured data to a website. Some strategies are more advanced (and more daunting) than others. At the end of the course, you’ll be able to add structured data in multiple ways. Just choose which strategy fits you best and start working on those awesome rich snippets yourself!

Want to buy our course?

The structured data training will be available as of June 29. You can purchase the course for the introductory price of $119 until July 2. You’ll get access to over 75 minutes of training videos, lots and lots of reading material and challenging quiz questions. If you finish our course, you’ll receive a certificate and a badge to put on your site. If you buy one of our courses, you’ll also get access to the Yoast Updates. These updates keep you in the loop about new trends in SEO and WordPress every 3 months.

Want to know more?

Check out the Structured data training and make sure you won’t miss the launch by subscribing to our newsletter!

Not the right training for you? We offer lots of other SEO courses. See which one fits your needs best!

A good XML sitemap is a roadmap to all important pages of a website. This roadmap guides Google to all main content on a website. Having an XML sitemap can be beneficial for SEO, as Google can retrieve essential pages of a website very fast, even if the internal linking of a site isn’t flawless. Here, we’ll explain what XML sitemaps are and how they help you with your rankings.

What are XML sitemaps?

You want Google to crawl every important page of your website. But it can happen pages don’t have any – internal – links to them, which will make them hard to find. You can use an XML sitemap to make sure Google can find and crawl all pages you deem essential on your website. An XML sitemap contains all important pages of a site to help Google determine the structure of it:

XML Sitemap Yoast

The XML sitemap of Yoast.com

 

The XML sitemap above shows the XML sitemap of the Yoast website, which the Yoast SEO plugin created. If you read further down the article, we’ll explain exactly how our plugin helps you create the best XML sitemaps. If you’re not using our plugin, it could be that your own XML sitemap looks a bit different but it will work the same.

As you can see the XML sitemap of Yoast shows several ‘index’ XML sitemaps: …/post-sitemap.xml, …/page-sitemap.xml, …/video-sitemap.xml etc. This categorization makes a site structure as clear as possible. If you click on one of the index XML sitemaps, you’ll see all URLs in that specific sitemap. For example, if you click on ‘…/post-sitemap.xml’ you’ll see all the post URLs of Yoast.com (click on image to enlarge):

XML Post Sitemap Yoast

The post XML sitemap of Yoast.com

The date at the end of each line tells Google when we’ve last updated the post. This is beneficial for SEO because you want Google to crawl your updated content fast. When a date in the XML sitemap changes, Google knows that there is new content to crawl and index.

Sometimes it’s necessary to split an index XML sitemap because of the number of URLs in it. The limit to the number of URLs in one separate XML sitemap is set to 50.000 URLs. This means, for example, that if your website has over 50.000 posts, you should add two separate XML sitemaps for the post URLs. So, you’re actually adding another index XML sitemap. We’ve set the limit to 1.000 URLs in the Yoast SEO plugin to keep your XML sitemap loading fast.

What websites need an XML sitemap?

If we look at Google’s documentation, they say that XML sitemaps are beneficial for “really large websites”, for “websites with large archives”, for “new websites with just a few external links to it” and for “websites which use rich media content”.

We agree that these types of websites will definitely benefit from having an XML sitemap. However, at Yoast, we think an XML sitemap is beneficial for every website. On each website, you want Google to easily find the most important pages and to know when you’ve last updated those pages. That’s why we’ve added this function to the Yoast SEO plugin. 

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Which pages should be in your XML sitemap?

How do you decide which pages you need to include in your XML sitemap? Always start by thinking of the relevancy of a URL: when a visitor lands on a specific URL, is it a good result? Do you want visitors to land on that URL? If not, that URL probably shouldn’t be in your XML sitemap. However, if you really don’t want that URL to show up in the search results you’ll need to add a ‘noindex, follow’ tag. Leaving it out of your XML sitemap doesn’t mean Google won’t index the URL. If Google can find it by following links, Google can index the URL.

Example 1: a starting blog

Let’s take the example of a new blog. The owner wants Google to find new URLs of the blog fast to make sure his target group can find his blog in Google. So it’s a good idea to create an XML sitemap right away. The owner has created some describing categories for the first posts and he has written the first posts. He has also set up some tags to start with. However, he doesn’t have enough content yet to fill the tag overview pages with. Since these tag overview pages contain “thin content”, it’s not valuable to show them to the visitors yet. It’s, therefore, better to leave the tag’s URLs out of the XML sitemap for now. In this case, the tag pages could also be set to ‘noindex, follow’ because you don’t want people to land on those URLs from the search results.

Example 2: media & images

Another example of an unnecessary XML sitemap – in most cases – is the ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap. Since your images are probably used within your pages and posts, the images are already included in your ‘post’ sitemap or your ‘page’ sitemap. Adding a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap would be redundant. We recommend always leaving this one out of your XML sitemap. Only when images are your main business you can make an exception. When you’re a photographer, for example, you probably do want to show a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ XML sitemap to Google.

How to make Google find your XML sitemap

If you want Google to find your XML sitemap fast, you have to add it to your Google Search Console account. You can find the sitemaps in Search Console by navigating to ‘Crawl’ and then clicking on ‘Sitemaps’. You’ll immediately see if your XML sitemap is already added to Search Console. If not, click on the ‘Add/Test sitemap’ button which you see on the right of the arrow in the image below.

Google Search Console XML Sitemap Yoast

The XML sitemap of Yoast is added to Google Search Console

 

As you can see in the image, adding your XML sitemap can be helpful to check whether all pages in your sitemap are really indexed by Google. If there is a big difference in the ‘submitted’ and ‘indexed’ number of a certain sitemap, we recommend analyzing this further. Maybe an error prevents some pages from being indexed or perhaps you should just add more content or links to the content that’s not indexed yet.

Yoast SEO and XML sitemaps

Because of the importance of XML sitemaps, we’ve added this functionality to our Yoast SEO plugin. XML sitemaps are available for both the free and the premium version of the plugin.

Yoast SEO creates an XML sitemap for your website automatically. You can find it by clicking on ‘XML Sitemaps’ in the sidebar of your WordPress install:

Yoast SEO tabs in WordPress backend

The XML Sitemaps tab in Yoast SEO

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the screen that follows you can enable or disable the XML sitemaps of your website. In addition to that, you can click on the ‘XML sitemap’ button to check your XML sitemap in your browser:

XML Sitemap settings in Yoast SEO

XML sitemap settings in Yoast SEO

In the tabs below the ‘enabled’ or ‘disabled’ toggle, you can find the different sitemaps you can in- or exclude from your XML sitemap: Users/Authors, Post Types and Taxonomies. On top of that, you can also exclude specific posts from the XML sitemap if you think the content of that post isn’t valuable enough.

Check your own XML sitemap!

Now you’ve read this complete post, you know it’s important to have an XML sitemap, because having one can help your site’s SEO. Google can easily access your most important pages and posts if you add the right URLs to your XML sitemap. In addition to that, Google can also find updated content easily, so they know if a certain URL needs to be crawled again. Lastly, adding your XML sitemap to Google Search Console helps Google find your sitemap fast and, besides that, it allows you to check for sitemap errors.

Now go check your own XML sitemap and see if you’re doing all of this correctly!

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

Perhaps you’ve heard about it: Google Tag Manager. Google introduced this tool 5 years ago, a tool that would make marketers less dependent on developers and that would, therefore, speed up your marketing process. Google Tag Manager has evolved over the years becoming a more complete and easy to use tool. Here I want to explain why you should sign up today, if you aren’t using Google Tag Manager already. 

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Before I go on to introduce Tag Manager, I do want to say a word of warning. Tag Manager is a powerful tool, and like any power tool, it should be used with care. Don’t just add tags that look appealing to you but you don’t fully understand. For instance, you might bring in a tag that could harm your site because the code is not safe. Or use a tag that influences your data tracking. If you’re not sure or in doubt of a certain tag, have someone who knows JavaScript take a look at it. Luckily, Tag Manager has a great Preview and Debug mode that lets you validate code before you publish.

What is Google Tag Manager?

If you have closer look at the term Google Tag Manager, you can guess what it’s about. It’s a tool developed by Google to manage your tags. But then the next question arises: what’s a tag? A tag is a snippet of code. There’s a whole bunch of analytics and marketing tools out there that work with JavaScript code. For instance, the Google Analytics tracking code – the one you add to your site to track your site’s traffic with Google Analytics – is JavaScript code.

Did you ever had to wait for a developer to add a piece of JavaScript to your site? Or to test whether that code wasn’t harming your website? Then you know how much valuable time that can take. With Google Tag Manager you can add these pieces of JavaScript or tags yourself. Google Tag Manager even has the ability to test whether you’ve implemented the tag correctly.

Running every tag from Google Tag Manager has two big advantages. First of all, you’ll have an overview of the tags you’ve added. Secondly, you’re in full control of measuring the effects of your marketing efforts.

What can you use it for?

Because Google Tag Manager allows you to add JavaScript to your site, you can use it for a lot of things. You can use it to get more insight in the behaviour of visitors on your site – ‘events’ like clicking on a button – but also to get tags of third party tools on your site. It will even help you to add structured data to your pages!

Google Analytics and Tag Manager

One of the most used tags that’s managed in Google Tag Manager is the Google Analytics tag. Not only can you add the Google Analytics tracking code. You can use Google Tag Manager to create, for instance, custom dimensions, events or content grouping. This means that you can track if people click on your buttons, if they scroll down to a certain point on your page, if they watch your videos and so on. All the cool things you can do with Google Analytics events, can now be managed in Google Tag Manager. And you won’t need a developer for it!

Other third party tools

Google Tag Manager supports a lot of third party tags, like: Adwords, Adobe Analytics, Bing ads, Hotjar, Crazyegg and so on. You can find the complete list on the Google Google Tag Manager support forum. You can use Hotjar tags to finally get those heatmaps – a visual representation of where people click on your site – you wanted to have. Or run surveys and A/B tests on your site. Getting data like that can help you bring your conversion rate to the next level.

Google Tag Manager and structured data

But there’s more! You can also use Google Tag Manager to implement structured data on your site. Structured data is extra information you add to your page in a specific format. Google can show this information in the search results, which makes it more likely people click on your result and engage with your page.

At the moment, we’re working on a new and practical course about structured data. In this course, you’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. Don’t miss the launch and keep an eye on our newsletter!

Where to find Google Tag Manager?

Google is ubiquitous with its tools. If you visit: google.com/analytics/  you can see all tools Google has developed to help you with your marketing strategy. In addition to Google Analytics, there are tools to help you boost conversion or perform customer surveys. And, of course, there’s Google Tag Manager. You can sign up for free! Wait! Free, you say? Yes, free!! So what’s stopping you?

After you’ve signed up, you can create an account for your website, your iOS or Android app or your AMP pages:

Create a container in Google Tag Manager

Just provide the URL of your site as the container name and then select web – if you want to implement it on your website. After you’ve created this container, Google Tag Manager will ask you to add a piece of code in the <head> and <body> of the page. I promise, this is one of the few things you might need a developer for, when it comes to using Google Tag Manager.

install Google Tag manager on your site

Luckily, if you’re using WordPress, you can easily add the Google Tag Manager code using a plugin called DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress. Please note that you only have to use the GTM-XXXX code.

If you’re using another CMS, please check out the quick install guide for more information on how to get started.

After you’ve inserted the Google Tag Manager code to your pages, you’re ready to create your own tags. This can be done in a so called workspace that looks like this:

So now you’re all set up and ready to add those tags to your site.

And now?

We’ll be doing more posts on Google Tag Manager soon. Explaining the practical side of things like how to create variables, triggers and tags, and how to implement structured data with it. We’ll also help you understand how to combine Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics to use it to its full extent. So stay tuned!

Read more: ‘How to use Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics’ »

You might have heard about structured data, schema.org and JSON-LD. But what do these terms mean exactly? What is structured data? What does structured data do? And what does it have to do with SEO?  For all of you who don’t know what structured data is: this post will make it clear to you! 

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What is structured data?

Structured data is code. It’s a piece of code that you can put on your website. It’s code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a specific way.

Imagine you have a website with a lot of recipes. If you add structured data to a page with a recipe, your result in the search engines will change. It will be much “richer” in terms of content that’s shown. That’s the reason we call these results rich snippets. This is what a rich snippet looks like:

Besides the title, the URL and the description of the search result, you can see how long it will take to make the absolute best ever lasagna. And, you’ll see how many calories the lasagne contains. You need to add structured data to your web page to get such a rich snippet.

There are all kinds of structured data. Structured data is always a code format. There’s structured data for books, for reviews, for movies, and for products in your online store, for instance. In all cases, structured data adds more details to your snippet in the search results.

We have to make one side note here. Unfortunately Google does not always create a rich snippet of your page, even if you’ve added the structured data. There are no guarantees. So all you can do, is add it to your page, and hope Google will pick it up!

What do you do with structured data?

With structured data, you can “talk” to the search engines. You can tell the search engines which ingredients there are in your recipe, you can tell them how long the preparation time is and you can tell them how many calories the dish will contain. Google will be able to instantly grasp all that information and can decide to show it in the search results.

So structured data is a tool you can use to tell Google (in a way it totally understands what you’re saying) detailed information about a page on your website. Google then will be able to use this information to create informative (rich) search results. And audiences love these rich snippets!

What is schema.org?

The big search engines have developed the project schema.org. On schema.org you can find all the structured data markup supported by the search engines. This makes Schema.org is a really large taxonomy of pieces of code.

You can use schema.org to find the markup you need for your specific page. For instance, if you sell t-shirt on your site, you could show what color t-shirts you sell and what sizes you offer in your snippet. You should investigate schema.org/Product and find out the possibilities.

On schema.org, you can copy exact code examples. After copying it, you’ll have to adapt the code to your own specific preferences.

Schema.org is a taxonomy of code formats that the large search engines understand. You’ll find examples of how the code looks like. There are other forms of structured data as well. For instance Open Graph (used by Facebook) and Twitter cards (used by Twitter).

What is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD is one of the markups of Schema.org. It’s just a way to write code. On schema.org, you’ll also find other mark-ups like Microdata or RDFa. At Yoast, we’ll advise you to always use JSON-LD, because it does not break your site as easily as other markups do. You can – relatively easily – add JSON-LD to your website using Google Tag Manager. That’s not possible with the other markups.

Why is structured data important for SEO?

Structured data is important for SEO because it’ll make it easier for Google to grasp what your pages and your website are about. Google needs to find out what a page is about to show it in the search results. Using structured data is like talking to Google, telling Google what your site is about. That’ll help with your rankings.

On top of that, structured data will change the way your snippet (your search results) will look like. It’ll show more information to your customer. More specific information. And this will increase the likelihood a customer will click on your results. More clicks will eventually lead to even higher rankings!

How to use structured data?

Using structured data sounds hard, but everyone can do it (with the proper training). You have to get the right code, you’ll have to adapt that code and you’ll need to use Google Tag Manager to put it on your site.

Currently we’re working on a practical training to help you get structured data on your site! You’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. So keep an eye on our newsletter if you don’t want to miss it. 

We already have written a lot of post about schema.org and JSON-LD, which will help you to understand more about this subject.

No code hero? Use a plugin!

A lot of structured data markup can also be added to your website using plugins. Our local SEO plugin, for instance, uses structured data to show the location or multiple locations of your store. You don’t have to write code to get that rich snippet, you’ll just use our plugin, fill out some details and we’ll do it for you. And there are many more plugins that’ll help you to use structured data without need to struggle with any code!

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

When you’re starting a business, you probably want to launch a website too. So you have to register one domain or more. Let’s say you’re registering your brandname as a domain, which extensions or TLDs (Top Level Domains) should you pick? Brandname.com? Brandname.biz? Or perhaps brandname.vip? Does it matter for SEO? We’ll help you make that choice in this Ask Yoast.

We received a question from Rob:

“Is there any benefit to having multiple extensions of a .com domain name? Like .net, .biz, .co.uk, etc.?
If so, how can you use these to an SEO advantage?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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TLD influence on SEO?

In the video, I’ll explain what to consider when selecting additional Top Level Domains:

“Well, for SEO value it doesn’t really matter, because for SEO you probably want to use one domain and one domain only, in particular a more generic one, like .net, .biz, etc. I would really recommend using just one and if you can, use the .com. But on the other hand I would buy all of them. Why?

Well, because you don’t want anyone else using them for their business. Your domain name probably relates to your business in some way and you don’t want anyone else using that for something else. So I would preregister or register a lot of them or at least the common ones, especially the easy ones like .net, .biz. You don’t have to do all the new fancy ones, like .agency… or whatever they come up with, but I would do the .net, .biz, etc. for your business.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Domain names and their influence on SEO’ »

We’ve said it in 2009, and we’ll say it again: it keeps amazing us that there are still people using just a robots.txt files to prevent indexing of their site in Google or Bing. As a result their site shows up in the search engines anyway. You know why it keeps amazing us? Because robots.txt doesn’t actually do the latter, even though it does prevents indexing of your site. Let me explain how this works in this post.

For more on robots.txt, please read robots.txt: the ultimate guide.

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There is a difference between being indexed and being listed in Google

Before we explain things any further, we need to go over some terms here first:

  • Indexed / Indexing
    The process of downloading a site or a page’s content to the server of the search engine, thereby adding it to its “index”.
  • Ranking / Listing / Showing
    Showing a site in the search result pages (aka SERPs).

So, while the most common process goes from Indexing to Listing, a site doesn’t have to be indexed to be listed. If a link points to a page, domain or wherever, Google follows that link. If the robots.txt on that domain prevents indexing of that page by a search engine, it’ll still show the URL in the results if it can gather from other variables that it might be worth looking at. In the old days, that could have been DMOZ or the Yahoo directory, but I can imagine Google using, for instance, your My Business details these days, or the old data from these projects. There are more sites that summarize your website, right.

Now if the explanation above doesn’t make sense, have a look at this 2009 Matt Cutts video explanation:

If you have reasons to prevent indexing of your website, adding that request to the specific page you want to block like Matt is talking about, is still the right way to go. But you’ll need to inform Google about that meta robots tag.  So, if you want to effectively hide pages from the search engines you need them to index those pages. Even though that might seem contradictory. There are two ways of doing that.

Prevent listing of your page by adding a meta robots tag

The first option to prevent listing of your page is by using robots meta tags. We’ve got an ultimate guide on robots meta tags that’s more extensive, but it basically comes down to adding this tag to your page:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow>

The issue with a tag like that is that you have to add it to each and every page.

Or by adding a X-Robots-Tag HTTP header

To make the process of adding the meta robots tag to every single page of your site a bit easier, the search engines came up with the X-Robots-Tag HTTP header. This allows you to specify an HTTP header called X-Robots-Tag and set the value as you would the meta robots tags value. The cool thing about this is that you can do it for an entire site. If your site is running on Apache, and mod_headers is enabled (it usually is), you could add the following single line to your .htaccess file:

Header set X-Robots-Tag "noindex, nofollow"

And this would have the effect that that entire site can be indexed. But would never be shown in the search results.

So, get rid of that robots.txt file with Disallow: / in it. Use the X-Robots-Tag or that meta robots tag instead!

Read more: ‘The ultimate guide to the meta robots tag’ »

Every website should have a decent internal search functionality that shows the visitors search results that fit their search query. However, those search results pages on your site don’t need to be shown in Google’s search results. In fact, Google advises against this too; it’s not a great user experience to click on a Google search result, just to end up on a search result page of your site. Learn what’s best practice to prevent this from happening!

User experience is not the only reason to prevent Google from including these pages in their search results. Spam domains can also abuse your search results pages, which is what happened to Krunoslav from Croatia. He therefore emailed Ask Yoast:

“Some spam domains were linking to the search results pages on my WordPress site. So what could I do to block Google from accessing my site search results? Is there any code that I could put in robots.txt?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Block your search results pages?

In the video, we explain what you could do to prevent Google from showing your site’s search results:

“Well, to be honest, I don’t think I would block them. What you could do, is try two different things:

1. One is do nothing and run our Yoast SEO plugin. We’ll automatically noindex all the search result pages on your site. But if that leads to weird rankings or to other stuff that is not really working for you, then you could do another thing:

2. The second way is to block them and put a disallow:/?=s* in your robots.txt. This basically means that you’re blocking Google from crawling your entire search query. I don’t know whether that’s the best solution though.

I would try noindex first and see if that does anything. If it doesn’t, then use the method of blocking your search results in your robots.txt.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘Block your site’s search results pages’ »

You would think this post would be redundant by now: people know that the meta keyword tag is useless nowadays, right? The truth is that we still see site owners using meta keywords on their website. In addition to that, people are still searching for meta keywords according to Google Trends, although there seem to be less queries than 5 years ago. That’s why we republish this post about the uselessness of meta keywords for SEO once again.

Let me give you the full history of the meta keywords tag’s demise. Already in September 2009, Google announced officially what was true for years back then: “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking”. Matt Cutts explained it in a video:

Do Yahoo! and Bing use meta keywords?

In October of that same year, 2009, at SMX East, Yahoo! announced they no longer use the meta keywords tag anymore either. This turned out to be not entirely true, as they do index them, but they won’t help you one bit.

Bing also stated in 2014:

“Today, it’s pretty clear the meta keyword tag is dead in terms of SEO value. Sure, it might have value for contextual ad systems or serve as a signal to bots plying the web looking for topics to target, but as far as search goes, that tag flat lined years ago as a booster.”

Earlier, they even implied that using them – the wrong way – could work against you, because it’s rather seen as a spam signal than a ranking signal.

So don’t waste your time on the meta keywords tag. Instead of thinking about which keywords to put in that silly tag for 5 minutes, think about your content for 5 minutes longer. Really. It’s worth it.

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But I want meta keywords!!!

By default, there is no meta keywords input field in our Yoast SEO plugin. If you use Yoast SEO and you really can’t live without them, you can turn it on though. You’ll first need to enable the advanced settings before you can change this. For a detailed explanation on how to do this, check out ‘how to enable meta keywords in Yoast SEO‘.

turn on meta keywords in yoast seo

Don’t expect me to think you’re cool though. The reality is, that if you’re trying to rank for any term that’s even only a little competitive, meta keywords won’t help. You should write engaging, meaningful content on a technically well optimized platform and get good links and social engagement. That’s what builds great rankings, meta keywords have nothing to do with it.

Read more: ‘Metadata and SEO part 1: the head section’ »

Why should you block your internal search result pages for Google? Well, how would you feel if you are in dire need for the answer to your search query and end up on the internal search pages of a certain website? That’s one crappy experience. Google thinks so too. And prefers you not to have these internal search pages indexed.

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Google considers these search results pages to be of lower quality than your actual informational pages. That doesn’t mean these internal search pages are useless, but it makes sense to block these internal search pages.

Back in 2007

10 Years ago, Google, or more specifically Matt Cutts, told us that we should block these pages in our robots.txt. The reason for that:

Typically, web search results don’t add value to users, and since our core goal is to provide the best search results possible, we generally exclude search results from our web search index. (Not all URLs that contains things like “/results” or “/search” are search results, of course.)
– Matt Cutts (2007)

Nothing changed, really. Even after 10 years of SEO changes, this remains the same. The Google Webmaster Guidelines still state that you should “Use the robots.txt file on your web server to manage your crawling budget by preventing crawling of infinite spaces such as search result pages.” Furthermore, the guidelines state that webmasters should avoid techniques like automatically generated content, in this case, “Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value”.

However, blocking internal search pages in your robots.txt doesn’t seem the right solution. In 2007, it even made more sense to simply redirect the user to the first result of these internal search pages. These days, I’d rather use a slightly different solution.

Blocking internal search pages in 2017

I believe nowadays, using a noindex, follow meta robots tag is the way to go instead. It seems Google ‘listens’ to that meta robots tag and sometimes ignores the robots.txt. That happens, for instance, when a surplus of backlinks to a blocked page tells Google it is of interest to the public anyway. We’ve already mentioned this in our Ultimate guide to robots.txt.

The 2007 reason is still the same in 2017, by the way: linking to search pages from search pages delivers a poor experience for a visitor. For Google, on a mission to deliver the best result for your query, it makes a lot more sense to link directly to an article or another informative page.

Yoast SEO will block internal search pages for you

If you’re on WordPress and using our plugin, you’re fine. We’ve got you covered:

Block internal search pages

That’s located at SEO › Titles & Metas › Archives. Most other content management systems allow for templates for your site’s search results as well, so adding a simple line of code to that template will suffice:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow"/>

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Meta robots AND robots.txt?

If you try to block internal search pages by adding that meta robots tag and disallowing these in your robots.txt, please think again. Just the meta robots will do. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing the link value of these pages (hence the follow in the meta tag). If Google listens to your robots.txt, they will ignore the meta robots tag, right? And that’s not what you want. So just use the meta robots tag!

Back to you

Did you block your internal search results? And how did you do that? Go check for yourself! Any further insights or experiences are appreciated; just drop us a line in the comments.

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

Google’s Knowledge Graph is hard to find, but its results are not. Take for instance that big block of information that appears on the right-hand side of your desktop screen after entering a search term. This block – also known as the Knowledge Graph Card – contains relevant, context-specific information regarding your search, powered by the Knowledge Graph.

If you search for a specific company, the Knowledge Graph will show an almost complete profile, depending on how well they did their SEO work. Searching for a recently released movie will show posters, reviews and screening times for your local cinema. As you see, the graph is a powerful and fascinating tool. But what can you do to get your information in the Knowledge Graph?

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It’s Google’s way of connecting information

Google’s core business is providing people with a correct answer to all their questions. To do that, it doesn’t just present the result that closest matches a search term, but also by making broader connections between data. Google, therefore, collects and analyzes massive amounts of data on people, places, things and facts and develops ways to present the findings in an accessible way. These are often rich results, like featured snippets, images carrousels or the famous Knowledge Graph Card mentioned in the intro of this text.

The Knowledge Graph and its card

This is where it might get confusing: many people mix up the Knowledge Graph and the panel you see on the right-hand side of your screen. The Knowledge Graph is the engine that powers the panel that’s officially called the Knowledge Graph Card. In this card, you’ll find the most visible result of the work the graph does. When there’s enough data about a subject, the card will be filled with all kinds of relevant facts, images, and related searches.

Check out Target’s card in the screenshot below, and you’ll see how much information it provides.

Anatomy of the Knowledge Graph

When Google released the Knowledge Graph in 2012, they made an excellent introductory video and supporting website. These explain in easy to understand language how exactly the graph works and how it influences the results you get when you search for a specific term. Check out the site and video; they are still as relevant today as they were then:

Examples of search results

In recent years, content presented by the Knowledge Graph has become much more interactive. At first, it featured only static content, like images, social media profiles, and general information about the search. Today, it is continually expanding in possibilities. If you search for a movie, you can directly book tickets to see it at your local cinema. Search for a local store, and you know exactly when the busiest times are. Google likes to experiment with the graph, what it shows and how it’s presented.

Let’s look at some examples of recent listings.

Recipes:

knowledge graph chocolate
Movies:

knowledge graph alien

 Music:

knowledge graph music
Image slider:
knowledge graph slider

These are just a few of the possible variations of information that can be found. What you see might even change depending on where you are in the world.

Getting your content in

To get your content in the Knowledge Graph, you need to become an authority on your subject. Find out what people search for by doing keyword research, write excellent content and make sure your site is fully optimized and mobile-friendly. Use structured data to mark up important elements of your site to make it easier for Google to understand what it is all about. Register your site with Google Search Console and My Business. Keep in mind, structured data in the form of Schema.org is becoming increasingly important.

Yoast SEO and the Knowledge Graph

If you have a business and need help getting your information in the Knowledge Graph, fear no more, because Yoast SEO can help. Just by setting up Yoast SEO – optionally supported by Local SEO – and filling out the information on your site, you automatically enable the data that Google needs to fill the Knowledge Graph. After that, you can use regular SEO tactics and structured data to fill in the missing pieces. Keep in mind though that it’s Google that determines what it adds to its Knowledge Graph.

Conclusion

The Knowledge Graph is an important part of the search experience in Google. It powers many of the innovative new ways data shows up in the search engine. Getting your information in there is of the essence, especially if you have a business. If so, you have to make sure your business details are correct, sign up for Google My Business and add everything you possibly can. Many other parts of the Knowledge Graph are generated from structured data, like reviews, movie information, events, so be sure to mark up your data in any which way you can.

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