If you’re creating content for a website, you might want to, occasionally, publish an article in a language different from the language of your other content. However, it’s difficult to rank with one specific article that’s written in a language that differs from the rest. So what should you do to improve the SEO of that article? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll help you out and explain when to optimize your metadata in another language, when to use hreflang and what more to do to help that article rank!

Justin from VPNgids.nl (VPNguide.nl) emailed us with this question:

“I’ve got a Dutch blog but I want to publish an article in English. What should I do? Should I just add an hreflang tag or something else?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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English article on a Dutch blog

In the video, we explain what options you have to improve the SEO of an article in a language that’s different from your other content:

“In this case, the hreflang tag isn’t even really necessary. The only reason you would use an hreflang is if you had a Dutch version and an English version of the same article. If that’s the case, then you should use hreflang on both articles. In case of a separate article in English, what you should make sure of is that on the English article all the metadata shows that that is an English article and not a Dutch article. Unfortunately this is quite hard to do in WordPress, if you’re not running a multilingual plug-in.

But to be honest, if you’re going to publish in English, maybe you should just make a separate section of your site for it that is completely in English. Adding some more content to it would give you a lot more chance for ranking, than just having one article in English. Of course you have to start somewhere. So by all means create that English section, start with that one article and then slowly add on to it.

It’s always a good idea, if you’re Dutch and your English is good enough, to switch to English. The Dutch language area is only very small and the world is a lot bigger, with a lot of English speakers. So I would really encourage you to start doing stuff in English. Just like we did! I started blogging in English eight years ago, which is why Yoast is so popular now.

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: ‘hreflang: the ultimate guide’ »

It’s official: Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index. But what does that mean? There’s no beating around the bush anymore: you should work on making your site as fast and accessible as possible. Don’t wait, do it now. I mean it.

For years, we’ve been bombarded by one message: mobile is going to take over the world. We needed to adapt ourselves to this new reality where everyone does everything on their mobile devices. While we still spend loads of time in front of our desktop and laptop machines, we can’t deny mobile is crucial. Just look at the upcoming markets, where people use their mobile for all possible tasks.

We also know that if you want to compete with the big boys, get a solid ranking for your mobile site and make some money from it, you need to take care of a few things. One of the most important ones is page speed. 

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The verdict is in

Let’s look at some recent research: according to Google the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load is now 22 seconds. Compare that with the three seconds visitors need to decide if they want to stay for your page to load and you will see a huge discrepancy. People are impatient. They want something, and they want it now. While page speed is important for your SEO, it is even more important for your UX, conversion and general customer happiness.

Yes, page speed will be a ranking factor

At the moment, page speed is more of an indicator than a ranking factor. Unless your mobile site is extremely slow, you can still get decent rankings with average page speeds. But it’s been proven time and time again that the speedier your site, the better your results will be.

Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.

Also, Google has recently gone on record saying that page speed will be a ranking factor in its upcoming mobile-first index. Details on how they will evaluate page speed for mobile and calculate rankings are still unknown. But, what we do know doesn’t change much from what we at Yoast have been saying for some time: make sure your site is responsive, as fast as possible, solidly structured, and full of excellent content.

5 ways to speed up your site

Do everything in your power to increase the loading speed of your mobile site. Everyone loves a fast site: we SEOs and search engines, but most importantly, our customers. Firstly, check Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what they advise you to do. Secondly, take a look at the size of your page, as many sites are bloated nowadays. Try to shave off as much as you can by optimizing images, compressing code and loading fewer external scripts and ads. In addition to that, here are five things you can work on:

Activate AMP on your pages

Google’s AMP project is meant to give the web a necessary speed boost. It’s not too hard to implement, and it will give your mobile site a life in the fast-lane. According to Google, AMP is not a ranking factor, but it’s not hard to predict it has a decent chance to become one. Read Google’s documentation on how to implement AMP.

Use HTTP2

That series of tubes we call the internet is at the dawn of a new age. Several new technologies will bring much-needed upgrades to the way the underlying infrastructure has been built. One of these is called HTTP2, and you can already use to speed up your site, barring it uses HTTPS. Find out more on performance optimization in an HTTP2 world.

Switch to PHP7

As we mainly use WordPress in these parts, getting everyone to use PHP7 is a big deal. To get everyone to move from unsupported and unsafe versions, like PHP5.2 and PHP5.3, we at Yoast created Project WHIP. Moving to PHP7 will give your WordPress site a speed boost, keep it secure and make it future proof.

General optimizations

You should already know these tactics. Please use a CDN to make sure that your content is delivered from a location close to the visitor. Use a caching plugin like WP Rocket to keep static parts of your site in the browser cache. Last but not least, please optimize images. That’s low-hanging fruit.

Critical rendering path

Running a PageSpeed Insights test will show you which elements block a page from rendering quickly. The critical rendering path is formed by the object – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. At modpagespeed.com you’ll find several open source tools to help you with these issues.

Always work on your page speed

Keep in mind that your work is never done. Your mobile site is never too fast, and your customers will never come flocking to you when you shave off just a little of your loading time. Keep working on it. Now, tomorrow and next month. If possible, try to automate your PageSpeed Insights testing, so you get regular updates. Follow the news to see if there are new ways to speed up your site.

Read more: ‘How to improve your mobile site’ »

You might have a lot of small sites which are topically related to each other. If you want to get more traffic to these sites, how do you achieve this? Do you have to bundle those sites to gain more traffic? And, what’s best for SEO when you want to run a new campaign? Set up a new domain for each site? Or add it as a subdomain to an existing site? Joost helps you out with these questions in this Ask Yoast.

We received a question for this Ask Yoast from Roger da Costa out of New York City:

“We run various sites focusing on public health issues. And we now want to bundle campaign sites that get little traffic under the organizations’ domain to improve SEO. Is this a good idea?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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One domain or multiple domains?

What to do when you run multiple campaigns? Choose one main domain or use a single one for every campaign? Check out the video or read the answer below!

Yes. Usually when you have a lot of small sites, consolidating them into one bare one is a good idea. Because it actually makes it easier for people to click around, to get more engagement with your site and you’ll have more links pointing at one domain, instead of a lot of links pointing at all the separate domains.

So, yes, I would do that. And if you build new campaign sites, try to build them as a sub-directory on your main site, instead of setting up a new domain for everything. Because a new domain for everything, really means that you’re starting fresh with Google all the time and that’s just a waste of your efforts on SEO.

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: ‘What to do if the traffic on your blog is decreasing?’ »

Literally, metadata is data that says something about other data. You can use particular metadata to send information about a webpage to a search engine or a social media channel, and thereby improve your SEO. In the first two posts of this metadata series, we discussed meta tags in headof your site and link rel metadata. In this last episode, we’ll scrutinize on metadata that can improve the sharing experience on social media. And last, but definitely not least, we’ll describe why metadata likehreflang declarations are a necessity if your business serves multiple languages and/or countries.

Posts in this series

Metadata #1: meta tags in the head

Metadata #2: link rel metadata

Metadata #3: Social and international

Social metadata

We have written about Open Graph and Twitter Cards before. These tags, or this information, is definitely metadata. It will help you tell social networks like Facebook and Twitter what the page at hand is about in an orderly, summarized way. It will allow you to control the way your articles or pages are shared.

OpenGraph

OpenGraph is a standard used by a number of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, these tags are added to your page automatically, and of course, you can control the contents of these OpenGraph tags (in the social section in our meta box below on edit pages).

Twitter Cards

The same goes for Twitter Cards. They add metadata to your pages that are convenient for Twitter to read and understand. Our plugin adds Twitter Card metadata as well. If there is no Twitter Card data, Twitter will fallback to OpenGraph data, but you obviously want to make things as simple as possible for that Twitter.

If you’d like a preview of how your page, shared on either Twitter or Facebook would look like, please check our Yoast SEO premium plugin, as that one adds these social previews right in your WordPress backend.

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But wait, there is more important metadata!

If you thought that all the things previously mentioned are all the SEO related metadata for your website, think again.

hreflang tags to indicate other languages

For those of you that have multilingual sites, this one is really, really important. If you have a site or page that is served in more than one language, be sure to add hreflang tags to your page.

With hreflang tags, you can indicate the language variations of the page at hand. That looks like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" 
      hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" 
      hreflang="en-gb" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/de/" 
      hreflang="de" />

As you can see, these can be used for variations of the ‘same’ language as well, like the British English in the second line. Note that hreflang isn’t a substitute for the rel=canonical we discussed. Be safe, implement both. More information on how to implement hreflang can be found here.

Alt tags

If you think about it, any extra attribute you assign to an image, like the alt or title tag, is metadata. Google uses it to scan the page and see what’s on there, so be sure to add these alt and title tags and optimize ’em.

Microdata for breadcrumbs

For a better understanding of your site’s structure, you should add some kind of microdata to your breadcrumbs. That can be done by adding schema.org data for breadcrumbs, for instance by JSON-LDRDFa is another option to add this type of metadata to your website. Again, install Yoast SEO for WordPress and this is taken care of.

Language declaration for the page at hand

Let’s wrap this long list of metadata up with another language related metadata element. At the very top of your HTML, we find the, indeed, html tag. This one wraps all the code of your <head> and <body> and can contain the language of the page at hand. That is done like this:

<html lang="en">

Makes sense, right. Some might say that adding a meta tag for Content-Language is also an option, but following the W3C guidelines, that meta tag should not be used anymore. Use the lang declaration in the html tag instead.

That concludes this series with a lengthy list of metadata you can use to tweak your SEO. I am confident you can come up with even more metadata, as there is plenty. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

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

If you own a blog for a long time, it could be that some of your old blog posts need to be updated or optimized. Every once in a while, you should go through your archive to check that. When you go through your archive pages, you might see posts with low quality content that you don’t want Google to add to the index temporarily. If you don’t want Google to show certain posts or pages in the search results, you can use the robots meta tag. That’s what this Ask Yoast is about!

Frédérique Lavios emailed us this question:

“We have a lot of old blog posts that need to be optimized. For overall website health, should I set these posts to noindex in the robots.txt file?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

How to noindex a post or page

In the video we explain whether you should use noindex for posts that need an update.

I honestly think you’re mixing up a couple of things here. Noindex is something that you should do on the page and in the robots.txt file you forbid the crawler to come to the page entirely (using the Disallow directive).

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So what you should probably do, if you really think that something is low-quality content, is noindex the page itself for now. So not in the robots.txt, but with a meta tag that you can set in the advanced tab of Yoast SEO and then, you should rework them. But if it’s reasonably quality content and you just want to make it better, I wouldn’t add noindex; I would just go through them and optimize them as you go along.

If you set a blog post to noindex, Google will start crawling it slower. So after you’ve fixed it, it might take a couple of weeks for Google to come back and see the new content. So don’t do that, if it’s not absolutely necessary and just keep the blog post indexed and rewrite them as you go along.

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: ‘Website maintenance: clean up old posts & pages’ »

In the first post of our metadata series, I discussed the meta tags in the <head> of your site. But there’s more metadata in the <head> that can influence the SEO of your site. In this second post, we’ll dive into link rel metadata. You can use link rel metadata to instruct browsers and Google, for example to point them to the AMP version of a page or to prevent duplicate content issues. The link rel tags come in a lot of flavors. I’d like to address the most important ones here.

Use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content

Every website should use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content and point Google to the original source of that content. rel=canonical is one of those metadata elements that has an immediate influence on your site’s SEO. If done wrong, it might ruin it. An example: we have seen sites that had the canonical of all pages pointed to the homepage. That is basically telling Google that for all the content on your website, you just want the homepage to rank.
If done right, you could give props to another website for writing an article that you republished.

If you want to read up on rel=canonical, please read this article: Rel=canonical: the ultimate guide.

Add rel=amphtml to point search engines to your AMP pages

In order to link a page to its AMP variant, use the rel=amphtml. AMP is a variation of your desktop page, designed for faster loading and better user experience on a mobile device. It was introduced by Google, and to be honest, we like it. It seriously improves the mobile user experience.

So be sure to set up an AMP site and link the AMP pages in your head section. If you have a WordPress site, adding AMP pages is a piece of cake. You can simply install the AMP plugin by Automattic and you’ll have AMP pages and the rel=amphtml links right after that.

If you’d like to read up about AMP, be sure to check our AMP archive.

dns-prefetch for faster loading

By telling the browser in advance about a number of locations where it can find certain files it needs to render a page, you simply make it easier and faster for the browser to load your page, or (elements from) a page you link to. If implemented right, DNS prefetching will make sure a browser knows the IP address of the site linked and is ready to show the requested page.

An example:
<link rel="dns-prefetch" href="https://cdn.yoast.com/">

Please note that if the website you are prefetching has performance issues, the speed gains might be little, or none. This could even depend on the time of day. Monitor your prefetch URLs from time to time.

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What about rel=author?

Rel=author has no effect whatsoever at the moment. It hasn’t had any effect we know of for quite a while actually, as Joost already mentioned this in October of 2015. You never know what use Google might come up with for it, but for now, we’re not pushing it in our plugin. It was used to point to the author of the post, giving the article more or less authority depending on how well-known an author was. At the time, this was reflected in the search results pages as well (it’s not anymore). No need to include it in your template anymore.

Other rel elements include your stylesheets (make sure Google can use these) and you can set icons for a variety of devices. SEO impact of these is rather low or simply not existing.

Is there more?

So we discussed meta tags and link rel metadata in the <head> . Is there even more metadata that affects SEO? Yes there is! In our next metadata post, I’ll explore social metadata, like OpenGraph and Twitter Cards. In addition to that, we’ll go intohreflang, an essential asset for site owners that serve more than one country or language with their website. Stand by for more!

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

Let’s say you own the website http://www.some-example.com. At one point, you might like visitors to go to the non-www version instead of the www version of your domain. In addition to this, if you follow security best practices, you might want to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. What should you do if you want to make both these changes? You probably figured out that you’ll have to redirect traffic from your current domain to your preferred domain. But what’s the best way to do this? Is there a preferred order?

We received an anonymous question for this Ask Yoast:

“I want to move my site from www and HTTP to non-www and HTTPS… what should I do?
1. Strip www and then force HTTPS;
2. or force HTTPS and then strip www?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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How to switch from HTTP to HTTPS and www to non-www?

Check out the video or read the answer below!

You should do both at the same time. You should redirect the HTTP link straight to the HTTPS version without the www. Don’t try to do that with two 301 redirects, you should do that in just one 301 redirect.

Forcing HTTPS is something that you need to test really well. There are all sorts of things in your site that probably aren’t HTTPS ready that you should know of upfront. I know it was a lot of hard work to get yoast.com to HTTPS and we don’t even have ads. Especially ad services can be really tough to get working on HTTPS. But you should do it in one go. So it’s really secret option number three: redirect from one to the other straight away, and don’t think about anything else.

If you really can do HTTPS for everything and it works fine, make sure to add an HSTS: ‘Strict Transport Security Header’, which forces everything to be over HTTPS. And then, if the browser sees an HTTP link to your domain in the content somewhere, it will still automatically grab the HTTPS version, thus the right one.

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: ‘How to remove www from your URL’ »

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

Default archive pages

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

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

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

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Adding the introduction

Category, tag and custom taxonomy archives

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

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

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

If you want to support shortcodes, try this instead:

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

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

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

Genesis Archive Settings

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

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

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

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

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

Custom Post Type archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preventing duplicate content issues

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

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

Styling the archive introduction text

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

Conclusion

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

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

If you have a local business, selling products or services, you have to think about the local ranking of your website. Local optimization will help you surface for related search queries in your area. As Google shows local results first in a lot of cases, you need to make sure Google understands where you are located. In this article, we’ll go over all the things you can do to improve Google’s understanding of your location, which obviously improves your chances to rank locally.

Google itself talks about local ranking factors in terms of:

  • Relevance: are you the relevant result for the user? Does your website match what the user is looking for?
  • Distance: how far away are you located? If you are relevant and near, you’ll get a good ranking.
  • Prominence: this is about how well your business is known. More on that at the end of this article.

Let’s start with your address details

If you have a local business and serve mostly local customers, at least add your address in the right way. The right way to do this is using schema.org, either by adding LocalBusiness schema.org tags around your address details or via JSON-LD. Especially when using JSON-LD, you are serving your address details to a search engine in the most convenient way.

Our Local SEO plugin makes adding that LocalBusiness schema to your pages a breeze.

This is very much about what Google calls distance. If you are the closest result for the user, your business will surface sooner.

Google My Business

For your local ranking in Google, you can’t do without a proper Google My Business listing. You need to enlist, add all your locations, verify these and share some photos. Google My Business allows for customer reviews as well, and you should really aim to get some of those for your listing. Positive reviews (simply ask satisfied customers to leave a review) help the way Google and it’s visitors regard your business. This is pretty much like on your local market. If people talk positively about your groceries, more people will be inclined to come to your grocery stand.

Getting reviews is one. You can keep the conversation going by responding to these reviews and, as Google puts it, be a friend, not a salesperson.

Your site’s NAP need to be exactly the same as your Google My Business listing’s NAP

Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP. That is the only way to make sure Google makes the right connection between the two. Add the main address on every page (you are a local business so your address is important enough to mention on every page). For all the other locations, set up a page and list all the addresses of your branches.

Facebook listing and reviews

What goes for Google My Business, goes for Facebook as well. Add your company as a page for a local business to Facebook here. People search a lot on Facebook as well, so you’d better make sure your listing on Facebook is in order.

Facebook also allows for reviews, like here for the Apple Store on Fifth Av. Note that this really is a local review, as the Fifth Avenue store scores a 4.6 average rating and the Amsterdam store just scores a 2.9 at the moment…

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City and state in title

The obvious one: for a local ranking, adding city and (in the US) state to your <title> helps. Read this article (2014), as Arjan sheds some more light on other aspects of local SEO as well. And please keep in mind that the effect of adding your city to your titles might be a lot less for your local ranking than adding your business details to Google My Business, but it won’t hurt for sure.

Local directories help your local ranking

Next to your Google My Business listing, Google uses the local Yelps and other local directories to determine just how important and local you are. Where we usually recommend against putting your link on a page with a gazillion unrelated links, the common ground for a local listings page is, indeed, the location. And these links actually do help your local rankings.

So get your web team to work, find the most important local directory pages and get your details up there. I’m specifically writing details and not just link. Citations work in confirming the address to both Google and visitors. If a local, relevant website lists addresses, get yours up there as well. And while you are at it, get some positive reviews on sites like Yelp as well, obviously!

Links from related, local businesses

Following how directories help your local ranking, it also pays off to exchange a link with related local businesses. If you work together in the same supply chain or sell related products, feel free to exchange links. Don’t just exchange links with any business you know, as these, in most cases, will be low-quality links for your website (because they’re usually unrelated).

Social mentions from local tweeps

Again, there’s a local marketplace online as well. People talk about business, new developments, products on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. All these social mentions find their way to Google’s sensors as well. The search engine will pick up on positive or negative vibes and use these to help them rank your local business. If a lot of people talk about your business and/or link to your website, you must be relevant. Monitor these mentions and engage.

Some say links, from other websites, directories and social media, are the key factor for local rankings. As always, we believe it’s the sum of all efforts that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not just optimizing one aspect. Take your time and make sure your Google My Business profile is right, schema.org details are on your site and you have the right links to your site, and the right people talking about you on for instance Twitter. And please don’t forget to do proper keyword research and simply make sure the right content is on your website:

Optimize your content for better local rankings

Google won’t rank your site for a keyword if that keyword isn’t on your website. It’s as simple as that. If your business is in city X, you probably have a reason why you are located there. Write about that reason. And note that these may vary:

  • You are born there or just love the locals and local habits
  • There is a river which is needed for transport
  • Your local network makes sure you can deliver just-in-time or provide extra services
  • The city has a regional function and your business thrives by that
  • There are 6 other businesses like yours, you’re obviously the best, and you all serve a certain percentage of people, so your business fits perfectly in that area.

These are just random reasons to help you write about your business in relation to your location. They differ (a lot) per company. Make sure your location/city/area is clearly mentioned on your website and not just in your footer at your address details!

Read more: ‘Tips for your local content strategy’ »

One more thing: Google also uses prominence as a local ranking factor

Prominence means that when Google can serve a result first from a well-known brand or business, they actually will. And despite all your efforts to improve your local ranking, this might get in the way of that number one position. It just means you have to step up your game, keep on doing the great work you do and trust that eventually, Google will notice this as well. And as a result, Google might allow you to rank on that number one position for that local keyword!

Keep reading: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

Metadata is all the information about a page that you send to a search engine that isn’t visible to your visitors. There seems to be some misunderstanding about this, as most of the articles I read about SEO metadata seem to imply that it’s just the title, description, keywords and robots declaration in the <head> of your website. Others feel social media declarations like Open Graph tags should be considered metadata as well. W3C states that “The <meta> element represents various kinds of metadata that cannot be expressed using the title, base, link, style, and script elements.” Literally, that means all these elements from meta to link and script are in fact metadata.

All these elements like link and meta might be metadata, but that does definitely not mean all that metadata is relevant for your SEO. In this article, and two articles about metadata that will follow soon, we’ll go over those metadata elements that do influence your rankings. In this first post we’ll focus on the metadata in the <head> of your website.

The obvious metadata elements

There are a couple of elements that obviously are metadata elements. Even if you know just a tad bit about SEO, you have heard of these.

Meta title

The title element is the main title of a page, represented by the <title> element.

Metadata: the title element

This is probably the most important element for SEO. Adding the right title to your pages can still have a direct influence on your ranking. Make sure to include the main keyword (or: focus keyword) at the beginning, and end your <title> with your company or website name for branding. The preferred length of your <title> might vary based on the most-used device people use to view your website, but a rule of thumb is that we have to keep a viewable limit in mind these days. An example: if you have lots of mobile visitors, go for a shorter title. It’s as simple as that.

Meta description

The meta description used to be the short description or summary of the page at hand.

Metadata: the meta description

In the old days, it helped Google to tell what the page was about in a heart beat. These days, Google simply ‘reads’ the entire page and the meta description has become a suggestion for the text displayed in Google’s search result pages. For this specific page and meta description, Google is for instance showing:

Metadata: search result pages

That example immediately emphasizes that the meta description is just a suggestion. Ours isn’t shown in the search result pages for this specific query. I used [WordPress SEO definitive guide]. That for sure doesn’t mean you should forget about it. It’s the invitation for your page you send to Google. It just might happen that Google prefers another snippet from your page to match a specific search query.

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Meta keywords

Forget about meta keywords now. They’re really just used for tags on some social sites, but meta keywords can easily backfire in Bing, for instance. Bing is said to use meta keywords the other way around: if you’ve heavily optimized your meta keywords, for instance by stuffing it with your focus keyword and a dozen synonyms, Bing will consider this spammy. I can relate to that. If you’re serious about SEO, you’ll by now know that the influence of meta keywords has become close to zero (and zero for Google).

Meta robots

Use the meta robots tag to tell Google how to treat the page. Do you want Google to index the page, or follow links on the page? Is Google allowed to get a summary from DMOZ or do you want it do consider the meta description and never use ‘third-party’ summaries? We have written an awesome ultimate guide to the robots meta tag that you should read to learn more about this particular metadata element.

Treat the meta robots tag with care, as the meta robots tag is respected a lot more than your robots.txt declarations by Google. If you want to learn more about robots.txt and the meta robots tag, you should check out our Technical SEO 1 training. In this training we explain how to assess and improve the crawlability of your site, one of the basic technical requirements for good SEO.

The other meta tags in your <head> section

There are more meta tags that can be included in your <head> section, but not all have an effect on SEO. I’d like to go over a number of the ones that might.

Meta refresh

If you pride yourself for being on the internet since Altavista, you know the meta refresh tag. It allows you to redirect a page after a given time to another page. Unless you have a very good reason to use this tag, I recommend using a HTTP status code, like a 301 redirect (or other redirect code) instead. That also means that if you find one on your website, you should consider changing it. An HTTP status code sends a much clearer signal to a search engine, as the meta refresh returns a 200 OK code. This means the webpage is OK to visit and index.

The meta refresh tag looks like this:

Metadata: refresh

It tells the browser to wait for 30 seconds and then simply go to yoast.com. The only logical reason to use this these days is to show a splash screen (a welcoming page) for your website, for instance with a notice or ad, and go on to your regular homepage after a certain number of seconds. But hey, there are nicer solutions for that.

Meta google

You read that right: Google also accepts some ‘personal metadata’. The ones they mention themselves are these two:

<meta name="google" content="nositelinkssearchbox" />

This one prevents Google from adding a site search box right in their search results like this:

Metadata: Sitesearch

This means people can’t search your site directly from Google. Sites like Amazon use this tag to make sure people actually use the search option on their own website. Among other things, this will make sure people see more and more related products, which might trigger more or higher sales.

The other one has to do with translations. If you don’t want Google Translate to ask a visitor to translate your site in whatever language, you can use this tag:

<meta name="google" content="notranslate" />

It’s named google but really doesn’t influence SEO that much. I wouldn’t use it, but instead, let my visitor decide.

A third Google related meta tag is the google-site-verification tag that is really only used to verify your site for Google Search Console. We recommend adding it to your site and keeping it added, so Google is able to verify whenever they want. For Yoast SEO for WordPress users: you can add it right in our plugin at SEO › Dashboard › Webmaster Tools. Here’s a video explaining how to verify your site to Google using our plugin.

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Meta viewport

The meta viewport is used to determine for instance the zoom of the page. A common use of the viewport tag is:

Metadata: viewport

Makes sense, right? The width of the page should be the width of the device, and the initial scale of the page should be 1 (default). There are reasons to think of why you’d like to change these settings, but I have seen that gone wrong a couple of times, ruining a website’s responsiveness (for instance). That’s the one reason I’m adding this one to the list, as a bad user experience could influence SEO. For more information on meta viewports, check CSSWG.org. There is obviously a lot more to consider if you want to optimize your mobile site. Be sure to read our article on how to improve your mobile site.

Is this all?

These are the meta tags that influence SEO one way or the other. But that’s not all there is when it comes to metadata. There is more hidden under the hood that you’d want to take care of. In next week’s post about metadata, we’ll elaborate on how to use link rel metadata to instruct your browser and Google. So stay tuned!

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