We are addicted to our smartphones. For many people, the smartphone is the first thing they check when they get out of bed in the morning. It is also the last thing they check before they go to sleep. People use it for everything. It’s huge. Mobile has changed our lives. It has also changed SEO. Mobile SEO helps you to reach customers and satisfy their needs in an enjoyable way. This guide to mobile SEO will show you everything you need to deliver a perfect mobile experience.

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Why is mobile SEO important?

Mobile SEO is so important because it helps you get in the right place at the right time and makes sure the experience you offer consumers is stellar. Mobile traffic has eclipsed desktop traffic. Every day, more and more people are discovering the enormous advantages of the smartphone. Our whole lives are in those machines – it’s almost scary to see how attached we’ve become to our smartphone. Many people call it an extension of themselves and something they couldn’t live without. To reach these people you need mobile SEO.

Mobile does not necessarily mean on the go. Studies find that people often grab the nearest device to look something up and in most cases that’s their smartphone. They use it to inform themselves about products before making the decision to buy something. Anywhere any place. According to research by Google, smartphone users have a higher buyer intent than desktop users. They’re focused and ready to buy. It’s your job to be there when they are looking for your products.

Mobile SEO vs. desktop SEO

There’s a difference between desktop SEO and mobile SEO, but the goals are often comparable. You want to reach your audience and turn them into customers. In some ways, desktop SEO tactics also work for mobile SEO, but in a slightly different form. Three big themes still apply: focus on performance, user experience, and content. In desktop SEO you’ll often focus more on the general public, while mobile SEO is somewhat more local oriented.

Google’s mobile-first index

The importance of mobile SEO is made even clearer by Google’s recent announcement. Sometime in 2018, Google will switch to a mobile-first index. What does this mean? For the first time, Google will determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of the site instead of the desktop version. A new Googlebot will crawl your mobile site and determine if its performance, content and user experience are up to scratch. If so, you can get a good ranking. If it fails somehow, other sites will be higher rated and will pass you by. Even if you’re not focusing on mobile you will still be judged by your mobile site, so now is the time to take action.

Things will change

Right now, nobody knows exactly how this process will differ from the current one. We do know, however, that you must keep your mobile site crawlable by taking down all possible barriers like poorly loading scripts. Don’t block stuff in your robots.txt. It also has to offer the highest possible performance if you want to be indexed well.

You can no longer present less information on your mobile site than on your desktop site. Your content has to be the same on both, because, in the future, you can only rank on the information that is on your mobile page. Or, like Google’s Maile Ohye told us in an interview:

“To “optimize” for a mobile-first index, make sure that what you serve to mobile users is the version of the content you’d want Google to index, not a paired down version, or a version that gets updated later than desktop, or version that redirects to the mobile homepage.”

Don’t forget to tell Google your site is mobile-proof. You can add a viewport declaration – if you’re using responsive design – or a Vary header when using dynamic serving. More on later on in this article or in Google’s developer documentation.

Know what to do

Mobile SEO is – just like regular SEO – all about making sure your site is crawlable and findable. Also, you need stellar performance, great content and a flawless UX. To get it right, you need to know how your site is currently performing and what your visitors are doing right now. For instance, do people use the same keywords on mobile to find you? People often change how they search while using a mobile device. And what do you want people to do? Offering to navigate to the nearest Whole Foods is less than ideal when you’re on a desktop machine. It makes total sense on your smartphone, though.

Mobile SEO tools

You need to become best friends with Google Search Console. Its search tools are legendary and a big help if you want to find out how your site is doing in the search results. For instance, by using the Search Analytics feature, you can see how mobile and desktop users use words to find what they need. Are you targeting the right words? Should you focus on something else?

One of the other Google Search Console tools that make your life a bit easier is the Mobile Usability tool. This tool checks your site and presents an overview of posts and pages that don’t follow Google’s mobile-friendly rules. This is an excellent way to start improving your mobile SEO.

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Another Google tool is PageSpeed Insights. This tool shows you exactly how fast your site loads on mobile and desktop. It also suggests performance improving enhancements. Use this alongside the Developer Tools in browsers to see how your site is rendering its contents. Some other great tools to up your mobile SEO game are Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, Analytics, SEMrush, OnPage.org, ScreamingFrog, and SimilarWeb.

Read more: Google Search Console: Search appearance
Read more: DIY: Test your mobile site

Design for performance

It’s the number one thing you’ll be working on when you’re trying to improve mobile SEO: performance. In this case, performance almost entirely boils down to site speed. It’s a given: the faster your site is, the happier your users will be. We all know that a site has to load within a couple of seconds or else your visitors will be gone. If you combine this with the knowledge that sites are only increasing in size, you know you have your work cut out for you.

Optimizing performance, however, is a continuous process. Your site will never be fast enough because there’s always more to improve. And that’s ok. By keeping a close watch on how your mobile site is performing, you can immediately jump onto every opportunity to improve it. Google loves fast sites, and so do your customers.

Read more: How to improve your mobile site
Read more: Page speed as a ranking factor, what you need to know

Responsive design vs. dynamic serving vs. separate domain

While developing your mobile site, you’ll have three options: responsive design, dynamic serving and a separate site on a subdomain. Google prefers responsive design. This way, you have one site that adapts to the device it’s used on. There’s only one code base, so maintenance is easy. According to Google, using responsive design will make your site eligible for addition in the new mobile-first index. Always let Google know that your site is mobile-proof by adding the meta name=“viewport” declaration in the head of your documents.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

Dynamic serving takes a different approach. It uses server-side technology to serve a different version of your site to mobile users, depending on the way they access your site. The URL stays the same, but the files sent differ completely. You need to add the Vary header to get Google to crawl your site. This way, Google immediately knows that it will receive mobile-optimized files from somewhere else. A Vary header appears like this when a browser makes a request:

Vary: User-Agent

The third option is a separate mobile site on a different URL – usually an m. domain – and with different content. Google supports this method, but only if you make correct connections between your regular desktop domain and the mobile domain. Use rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” to tell Google how these pages are connected. More on these different types and how Google uses them on this Developers page.

PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a powerful tool to analyze the performance of your mobile site. It’s easy to use and gives you loads of insights into the loading speed of your site. Put in your URL and Insights will give you two scores: one for mobile and one for the desktop. These will differ. If your score is red, you have work to do. Orange means an average performance and green is good. You’ll receive suggestions to enhance the performance of your site. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll be on your way.

I hear you thinking:

“Nobody has a score of 0/100, right?”

Well, think again. It’s a combination of things that can do your mobile site a lot of harm. Find a bad hosting provider, install WordPress on a crappy shared hosting program, activate thirty plugins and upload a hundred non-optimized images to your blog and you are well on your way to a bad score. But these things can easily be undone. Run PageSpeed Insights and other speed analyses tools and follow their advice.

What can you do to improve your site speed?

When improving your page speed, you should always ask yourself if you need all these assets, libraries, images, plugins, theme features and so on. The famous saying “less is more” is still as valuable as ever.

Read more: Site speed tools and suggestions »

Think about implementing AMP

The Google-led open source project AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, has one goal: loading your pages as fast as possible. It’s been in development for some time now. It has reached new heights with the release of amp-bind, a JavaScript library that adds interactivity to AMP pages. Now, one of the biggest drawbacks of using AMP is fixed.

In the beginning, AMP was used on static posts, like blogs or news articles, that didn’t need interaction from the user. For e-commerce purposes, AMP fell short. Until now, that is. Look into what AMP could do for your site and how you might implement it. Not every site needs it, but the ones that do could gain a lot from it.

Read more about implementing AMP with WordPress »

New kid on the block: Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

PWAs offers another way of targeting that mobile user. A progressive web app is an all-in-one solution that works on all devices, for all users. It’s the perfect crossover between the app world and the web world. The web app works like an app, without the need to publishing it in an app store. PWAs combine the loading speeds of mobile sites with the best functionality of a native app. If done correctly, a good PWA might fool users into thinking they are using a native app.

Thanks to technologies like service workers, the browser can do a lot more in the background, while keeping the front end updated in real-time. This makes it a viable option if you need an app, but can’t justify the cost. There will be a lot happening with progressive web apps in the next couple of years. Google has a must-read blog post if you want to know how to create indexable PWAs.

Focus on user experience

Besides being findable and lightning fast, your mobile site should offer an enjoyable user experience. Try to take away any obstacles and make sure users can reach their goals quickly. There’s a lot you need to consider when optimizing your user experience. I’ve listed a couple of things you can think of below:

  • Fix your font size: your typography needs to be top notch.
  • Keep enough room between the clickable elements.
  • Make your sub-menu clickable, so users don’t automatically go back to home instead of the submenu.
  • Put your phone number on the homepage and make it clickable. This way, people can call you if they want to do business.
  • Don’t make users pinch and zoom to see – and use – your interface.
  • Make your buttons large enough for fingers.
  • Fix your forms: bad forms are unusable on mobile.
  • Cut the clutter.
  • Test, adjust and test again!

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

Optimize for local

While we use our smartphones a lot in our house, these devices become extra useful when we’re out and about. Google found out that 76% of the people who search for something nearby visit a related business within a day. 28% of those visits lead to a sale. To cope with that local demand, you need to work on your local SEO. Local search results can look very different from regular desktop searches, so you have to know what to target and how to target that. Here are some things you can to do to improve your local SEO for mobile:

Read more: Ultimate guide to small business SEO
Read more: Local ranking factors that help your business’ SEO

Finetune your mobile content

The screen of a smartphone is small, that’s a given. On that screen, text gets truncated or wrapped in a seemingly never-ending stream of paragraphs. A user has to scroll endlessly. Text on a mobile screen has the potential to give every web designer a headache. But the design – and use – of text is of crucial importance to the success of your site. If your site is unreadable or plain ugly, people will not read your 1,000-word article. Hell, not even your 100-word summary. Fix your typography.

People read a lot on their smartphones, but you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Also, you have to make sure that your content is up to scratch as well.

Read more: Optimize your mobile content

Write for the small screen

Always keep the restrictions of the small screen in mind when creating or editing content. Don’t use too many long sentences, keep your paragraphs around four sentences and use many stops like lists and headings to break up your text. Nothing is more daunting to your visitor than a massive block of unformatted text. Check your content on a smartphone to see how it works and if it’s possible to improve it.

Read more: Copywriting for mobile (coming soon!)

Write better meta descriptions and titles

Google will show less information in the search results on mobile than on a desktop. Your meta descriptions and your titles will be truncated if you made them too long. Thinks about that when you optimize your posts and pages. You lose several characters when optimizing your meta descriptions and titles for mobile. In Yoast SEO’s snippet editor, you can switch between a mobile and desktop preview. This way, you can see how the differences between the two and pick a perfect middle ground.

Read more: The snippet preview in Yoast SEO

When working on your content, you should take the next biggest thing into account: voice search. Yes, it’s been around for a while. But with the advent of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s nameless Home assistant, things are moving fast right now. More and more people are using their voice to perform actions on the web, and your content has to provide answers. If done correctly, you might kill two birds with one stone: you’ll not only respond to questions mobile users have, but it might also lead to so-called featured snippets or answer boxes on desktop searches.

To prepare for voice search, you need to take a good look at your current content. Ask yourself, does it answer any question a user might have? If not, change it. Find out which questions people use to find your content and optimize for that. Use Google’s autofill or tools like Answer the Public to find alternative questions to answer.

Read more: How to prepare for voice search

Add structured data to a mobile site

Structured data is hot. By adding structured data in the form of Schema.org to your site, you can open a line of communication with search engines. Structured data makes it clear for search engines what all the different elements on your site mean. If done correctly, search engines can use this data to give you highlighted search results, known as rich results or rich snippets. This way, your site immediately stands out from the crowd, and that might lead to a higher click-through rate.

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Structured data forms the basis for many new ways of presenting search results. The rich results we used to know as rich cards, for instance, use data you can add to your mobile site. The result is a snippet that is mobile-optimized and very enticing to click. Structured data is one of the most important topics you have to read up on. Follow our structured data course if you need an easy way to add structured data to your mobile site.

Read more: Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide

A mobile SEO guide

This ultimate guide to mobile SEO gives a lot of pointers to improve the performance of your mobile site.  Mobile SEO should always be a work in progress because there are always new things to improve. Also, technologies arrive or get discarded. The world is always changing, and you have to keep up. If you do, the rewards can be great. So, what are you waiting for? Get your smartphone, check your site in a mobile browser and find and fix those issues. Use this mobile SEO guide well, because 2018 is going to be an important year! This is the time to take action because if you don’t, you might miss out in the new year.

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

Those used to tabbed browsing know why favicons are important. Your site will stand out from the rest if your favicon is recognizable. After all, a picture says more than a thousand words. Personally, I often find myself pinning websites in Google Chrome, still my browser of choice. As a to-do list, or simply because I want Gmail at hand anytime. Or that specific spreadsheet in Sheets. Or Facebook. That little favicon is the only reference to what site is hidden in that tab. You simply need a good favicon for your website.

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Make your favicon stand out

You should make sure your favicon stands out from that long list of tabs. Check if it matches your logo and website well. Especially when you are not one of the big brands, you want people to recognize your favicon. Two tips directly related to that are:

  • avoid too many details in your favicon,
  • and please use the right colors, so the favicon doesn’t blend in with the gray of your browser tab.

Both are closely related to branding. Your brand should be recognizable in your favicon. Although we’re able to use more colors and more depth in our favicons nowadays, the fact is that the space available on that browser still hasn’t improved from the small 16×16 pixels it used to be in the early days. It doesn’t look like 16×16 pixels anymore, but that’s because we have better screens, not because that space increased. The main improvement is that lines are sharper and you can use all the colors you want.

Proper branding is making sure people will relate your favicon to your website immediately. I listed a number of favicons for you to test. Drop me a line in the comments about what favicon belongs to what brand:

favicons quiz

Too easy? In that case, these brands did a good job on translating their brand to their favicon.

SEO benefits of favicons

Are there real SEO benefits to favicons? Tough one. Besides branding, probably not, though opinions may differ on this a bit. One might argue that you can now add an image of 1MB as a favicon and that this will slow down loading times. You could say that a proper favicon highlights a bookmark and might increase return visitors. I have even found a story where someone stated that some browsers automatically look for a favicon and return a 404 if it’s not there.

My 2 cents? If there is an SEO benefit, it’s so small that all other optimization, like proper site structure or great copy, should always have priority. Does that mean you don’t need that favicon? Hey, didn’t you read that part about browser tabs? You do need it, even if it’s just to stand out.

WordPress just made your day: favicons in the Customizer

If you use WordPress, you might already know that there’s been a favicon functionality in WordPress core since version 4.3. So you can use this default functionality, without hassle. It’s located in the Customizer and is called Site Icon. In fact, WordPress recommends using this option to add a favicon. You don’t even need to create a favicon.ico file, like you used to, years ago. Just use a square image, preferably at least 512 pixels wide and tall. That seems to contradict with the recommendation to keep it as small as possible. But if you optimize your image, it won’t slow down your site :)

More information on how to go about this in WordPress is in the WordPress Codex. Go read and add a nice favicon to your own site!

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

In our Ask Yoast case studies we give SEO advice for websites in a specific market or industry. This time: the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects, the business site of an architect duo. The architects told us that they get great responses from their clients, but is their website optimized for search engines as well? We’ll dive into this architectural website to see what improvements can be made to enhance their site’s SEO.

First impression

The first page we land on is the homepage. We see lots of full screen images of the great work these architects deliver on top of the homepage. Though impressive, the images are shown in a slider. Loyal readers of our blog know that we’re not a big fan of sliders. Many experiments show why you shouldn’t use a slider on your website. Only 1% of your visitors will actually click on a slider, they slow down your website and lots of visitors ignore sliders because of banner blindness. Just to name a few.

Looking at this specific website, the slider images are very big as well. The textual content of the homepage is pushed down. We recommend showing some smaller images on top of the site, instead of the slider, and adding some clear introductory content just below these images. Try adding your USPs to the introductory content: Why should visitors choose you as their architect?

Lastly, by adding a clear call-to-action just below the introductory content you’ll make sure visitors can easily navigate to your most important pages. For example, you could think of a button which says ‘Get inspired by our projects’ or ‘Our services’: decide what the main goal of your homepage is. Just to show you the difference, we’ve created a mock-up of how the homepage could look like after following our advice:

Homepage example of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Beautiful images, too little text

On the ‘The Studio’ page, we notice a tab ‘What we do’. This tabbed content tells visitors what kind of work you do and what type of services you offer. Because of the relevancy of this content, we think these services deserve their own menu item. Visitors who want to know more about your team and your company may click on ‘The Studio’. However, they might not expect to find the services you offer there.

In addition to that, your services are great subjects to write about. Writing nice informational copy about your services will increase your chance of ranking for keywords related to these services. When you add sufficient relevant content, Google will understand that your website has content for people looking for services like yours. This means those people will easily find you. The more your content seems to fit to the needs of people who search for these keywords, the higher you’ll rank in the future.

Make sure you optimize one specific page or post for one subject/keyword. When you optimize one page for more keywords that are too different, it’s unclear for Google what the main subject of the page is. Pages that contain a lot of information about the keywords you really want to rank for, should become your cornerstone content pages. This blog post about cornerstone content explains in detail what cornerstone content means and this blogpost shows you how to incorporate cornerstone content into your website.

Lastly, we think you can improve your content as well by adding more copy to your project pages. Consider writing a nice text about the planning stage of the project, the building stage and the delivery stage of the project, for instance. In this copy you can add relevant keywords for your business. In addition to that, this allows you to internally link to your cornerstone content pages from your project pages. 

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Structure your text

When you decide to write more copy for your website in the future, make sure the pages and posts have a great heading structure. On your current pages and posts, we noticed that your logo is an H1 heading. However, the H1 heading should describe the main subject of a particular page on your site to help Google understand what the subject of that specific page or post is.

For example, checking ‘The studio’ page, we see the following headings on top of the page:

Headings Slemish Design Studio Architects

Your company name/logo has an H1 tag now, which means that your company name would be the main subject of this page. While in fact, ‘The studio’ is the main subject of the page. So you should change the H2 heading of ‘The studio’ into an H1 heading. Just remove the H1 heading from the logo on every page of the website. We’d advise to check all of your pages and posts and only add one H1 heading, that describes what can be found on there, on each page.

Read more: ‘SEO basics: how to use headings on your site’ »

The right metadata

You’ll need to add relevant keywords to your page titles to help Google understand what your pages are about. Since page titles are still one of the most important ranking factors it’s important to optimize those to the fullest.

Looking at the page title of your homepage, we think you’ve added too many different keywords to show what your website is about:

Adding all different locations to your page title makes it unclear what your website is about. Moreover, the snippet doesn’t look very enticing to click on in the search results. This might cause a low CTR, or click-through rate. If you want to rank for all the different locations, adding separate pages with unique page titles and content for every location would be a better idea.

We’d advise to create appealing page titles and make sure they describe what can be found on that specific URL. For the homepage, use your USP and add a call-to-action such as ‘See our projects here’ to make people click on your page in the search results. Don’t you think a snippet like this will be more appealing to potential visitors?

On top of that, it’s important to be consistent in your branding. Add your company name to every page title. If you do that, people will recognize your page in the search results more easily, because of the brand name in every page title.

Add more relevant content to your blog

Having a blog can be very beneficial for SEO. Adding posts regularly makes it easy to add content about relevant keywords to your website. It helps you to start ranking for new keywords and to keep ranking for the keywords you already rank for.

Slemish Design Studio Architects have a blog and they add new posts regularly, which is great. However, it seems that lots of posts have little textual content. For example, this post only has two sentences:

Blog post of Slemish Design Studio Architects

Google could consider this post as a thin content page, which could hurt your website’s rankings. Since pages like these don’t add much value to your website, you’d better add more content or remove them from your website.

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

Create strong cornerstone content

Besides the benefits of adding more content about relevant keywords to a blog, a blog also gives you an opportunity to add more internal links to your most important pages and posts. For example, when you’ve created a separate page for the service ‘Sun Rooms’ you could write a blog post about new innovations for sun rooms. From that post you can add an internal link to the page about the ‘Sun Rooms’ service. Doing this consistently, that service page – which could be a great cornerstone content page if you add sufficient content – will become a better search result, according to Google.

In addition to internal links within a text, you can add a popular, recent or related posts section to the blog. The sidebar is often used to add sections like these. These links in the sidebar will give the posts they link to some extra link value.

Lastly, adding your blog’s categories to the sidebar will give your category pages some more link value too. Consider doing this if you want to rank with your category pages.

A fast loading website

The longer visitors have to wait for your website to load completely, the more likely it gets that some of them will ‘bounce’ back to the search results. A long loading time frustrates visitors, so they might leave your website before seeing any relevant content. Google uses bounce rate, among other things, to determine if a website provides visitors with a good result. When lots of visitors bounce back to Google’s search results quickly, that isn’t a good sign. You might understand that this can harm your rankings.

On top of that, page speed is an actual ranking factor. Google understands that a website with bad loading times probably isn’t the best result. Similar websites that load faster are likely to end up higher in the search results.

We’ve tested the website of Slemish Design Studio Architects and we found a score of 24/100. The score is in red and this means that there’s work to do! Just follow the advice Google gives in the page speed tool as this leads to both a better user experience, as well as better rankings. 

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

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To sum it up

It was a pleasure analyzing the website of this architect duo. You show some amazing work in the images on the website! Adding a cleaner homepage with a clear call-to-action could result in more conversions, so more actual clients. Also, specific pages for all your services could be valuable for both Google and visitors.

Basically, our most important SEO advice is: make sure Google understands what your website is about. This means you’ll need to write relevant content about keywords you’d like to rank for. Furthermore, optimizing your site’s metadata – like titles and meta descriptions – and headings would be beneficial. With internal links you can connect your content and give your most important pages extra value.

And last, but definitely not least, making your website load faster will really improve your site’s SEO and user experience!

Read on: ‘How to optimize your real estate site’ »

Breadcrumbs are an important part of almost any good website. These little navigational aides not just help people visualize where they are on your site, but also help Google determine how your site is structured. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to add these helpful little pointers. Let’s see how breadcrumbs work.

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What are breadcrumbs?

When Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, Hansel dropped pieces of bread on the ground so they could find their way home if the two of them ever got lost. These breadcrumbs eventually became the model for the breadcrumbs we see on websites nowadays. A breadcrumb is a small text path, often located at the top of a page. On yoast.com, for instance, the path to our Yoast SEO plugin page is Home > Software > WordPress Plugins > Yoast SEO for WordPress. This breadcrumb immediately shows you where you are. Every part of that path is clickable, all the way to the homepage.

Breadcrumbs also appear in Google. If you use Yoast SEO or add the correct form of structured data to your site, search engines can pick up this data and could show your breadcrumbs in the search results. These provide users an easy to understand overview of where the page sits on your site.

Different kinds

Looking closely, we can distinguish different types of breadcrumbs. These are the three most common types of breadcrumbs you will find on sites:

Hierarchy based breadcrumbs

These will pop up most often. We use them on our site as well. Breadcrumbs like this will tell you where you are in a site structure and how many steps you can take to get back to the homepage. Something like Home > Blog > Category > Post name.

breadcrumbs hierarchy

Attribute based breadcrumbs

Attribute based breadcrumbs appear after a certain selection has been made, for instance, while searching for a product on an e-commerce site. Maybe, Home > Product category > Gender > Size > Color.

breadcrumbs attribute

History based breadcrumbs

History based breadcrumbs do what it says on the tin; they are ordered according to what you have been doing on the site. Think of these as a replacement for your internet history bar. These would appear like this: Home >  Previous page > Previous page > Previous page > Current page. It’s also possible to combine these like Macy’s does in the screenshot below.

breadcrumbs history

Advantages to using breadcrumbs

There are a couple of advantages to using breadcrumbs on your site. Let’s go over them quickly:

1. Google loves them

Your visitors like breadcrumbs, but Google likes them as well. Breadcrumbs give Google another way of figuring out how your website is structured. In addition to that, Google might use your breadcrumbs to show these in the search results. This way, your search result will at one become much more enticing to users. To increase the chance to get these breadcrumbs in Google, you need to add structured data or use Yoast SEO.

2. They enhance the user experience

People hate to get lost. When confronted with a new location, people often look around in search of recognizable objects or landmarks. The same goes for websites. You need to keep visitors happy and reduce as much friction as possible. Breadcrumbs can help your user experience since it is a well-known interface element that instantly shows people a way out. No need to click the back button!

3. They lower bounce rates

Hardly anyone comes in via the homepage anymore. It’s all organic search nowadays. That means every part of your site could be an entry point. You must come up with a way to guide these visitors to other parts of your site if the selected page does not meet their expectations. Breadcrumbs can lower bounce rates because you’re offering visitors an alternative means of browsing your site. Don’t you think it’s better to send a visitor to your homepage than back to Google?

How to add breadcrumbs

There are several ways of adding breadcrumbs to your site. Firstly, if you use a WordPress site, you can use one of the many breadcrumb plugins or just use Yoast SEO. If you use a different CMS the process might be different. It is also possible to add them by hand. If you want them to appear in Google as well, you need to use structured data in a way that Google understands. You can find more information on this in Google’s developer documentation on breadcrumbs.

Yoast SEO offers an easy way to add breadcrumbs to your WordPress site. It will add everything necessary to add them not just visible on your site, but get them ready for Google as well. To add breadcrumbs to your site, you need to add the following piece of code to your theme where you want them to appear:

<?php
if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {
yoast_breadcrumb('


','

');
}
?>

This code can often be placed inside the single.php or page.php files, just above the title of the page. Some themes want it at the end of the header.php file. Try not to add it to functions.php since this could create problems.

After adding the code, you can go to the advanced settings of Yoast SEO and switch on breadcrumb support. Here, you can also determine how the breadcrumb structure will look and what prefixes will be used. Find out more on our Knowledge Base page on implementing breadcrumbs with Yoast SEO.

Conclusion

While using breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel still got lost in the woods. Don’t let that happen to your visitor. Breadcrumbs provide an easy to grasp way of navigating for users. Visitors instantly understand how the site structure works. For the same reason, Google loves them as well. Use Yoast SEO to add breadcrumbs to your site easily.

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

If you take your SEO – and users – seriously, you’ll be working on a kick-ass site structure. Setting up a decent site structure is rather hard. Maintaining a solid site structure if your site is growing is even harder. Mistakes are easily made. In this post, I will share 5 common site structure mistakes people often make. Make sure to avoid all of these! 

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#1 Hiding your cornerstones

Your most important articles – your cornerstones – should not be hidden away. Cornerstone articles are the articles that your most proud of, that most clearly reflect the mission of your website. Some people forget to link to their most precious articles. If an article receives no or few internal links, search engines will find it less easily (as search engines follow links). Google will regard articles with few internal links as less important, and rank them accordingly.

Solution: link to those cornerstones

Ideally, you should be able to navigate to your cornerstone articles in one or two clicks from the homepage. Make sure they’re visible for your visitors, so people can easily find them.

Most importantly, link to those cornerstone articles. Don’t forget to mention them in your other blog posts! Our internal linking tool can really help you to remember your cornerstones at all times!

#2 No breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are important for both the user experience and the SEO of your website. And yet, some people do not use them. Breadcrumbs show how the current page fits into the structure of your site, which allows your users to easily navigate your site. They also allow search engines to determine the structure of your site without difficulty.

Solution: add those breadcrumbs

No excuses here! Just add those breadcrumbs. Yoast SEO can help you do that!

#3 HUGE categories

Categories should be relatively similar in size. But without even noticing it, people will sometimes write about one subject much more than about another. As a result, one category can slowly grow much larger than other categories. When one category is significantly larger than other ones, your site becomes unbalanced. You’ll have a hard time ranking with blog posts within a very large category.

Solution: split categories

If you’ve created a huge category, split it in two (or three). You should check the size of your categories every now and then, especially if you write a lot of blog posts.

#4 Using too many tags

Don’t create too many tags. Some people want to make tags really specific. But if every post receives yet another new unique tag, you are not structuring anything, because posts don’t become grouped or linked. So that’s pretty much useless.

Solution: use tags in moderation

Make sure that tags are used more than once or twice and that tags group articles together that really belong together. You should also ensure that your tags are in fact available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article. Tags are useful for your visitors (and not just for Google) to read more about the same topic.

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

#5 Not visualizing your site structure

A final site structure mistake people make is forgetting to visualize the site structure. Visitors want to be able to find stuff on your website with ease. The main categories of your blog should all have a place in the menu on your homepage. But don’t create too many categories, or your menu will get cluttered. A menu should give a clear overview and reflect the structure of your site. Ideally, the menu helps visitors understand how your website is structured.

Solution: dive into UX

In order to create a good and clear overview of your site, you should really dive into some aspects of User eXperience (UX). Think about what your visitors are looking for and how you could help them to navigate through your website. You could, for instance, start with reading our blog posts about User eXperience (UX).

Fix your site structure mistakes!

Site structure is an essential aspect of an SEO strategy. The structure of your website shows Google what articles and pages are most important. With your site’s structure, you can influence which articles will rank highest in the search engine. So, it’s important to do it right. Especially if you’re adding a lot of content, the structure of your site could be changing quickly. Try to stay on top!

Did we forget a site structure mistake that you encounter often? Please share it with us in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Writing about SEO is easier than implementing best practices on a website yourself. Every site is different and every type of site presents its own challenge. We know that, and that’s why we started our Yoast Case studies, in which we scrutinize an existing site and give the owner practical advice on how to optimize it. In this third case study: SEO of a photographer’s site.

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Photography and SEO

In this case study, we dive into the site of a photographer: geoffwilkings.com. Geoff is curious what he could do to improve his website’s SEO. He’s told us he’s 100% about photography and photos but knows he needs textual content to rank. He does have a blog and he wonders if he is writing clear enough for prospects and search engines. Let’s have a look at different aspects of his photography website to see what’s good and what needs improvement.

Of course, a website is a work in progress, so while we reviewed his site, Geoff already made some changes to it. This means that what you see on his site might differ a bit from the screenshots below. But we’ll keep them here because we think they serve as nice examples!

Every website needs content to rank

Photos vs. textual content

It makes sense that photographers want to present their work on their website. The photos show their style and by adding lots of photos, they try to convince visitors of the quality of their work. Displaying great photos will, of course, increase the chances of people wanting to hire you, as a photographer. But what does it mean for SEO?

Adding content is one of the main things you need to do to make your website rank, as you might know. The content shows the search engines what the website is about and for what queries it should rank.

Content can consist of textual content but also photos, images and videos. For search engines, textual content is the most valuable content; it helps them determine what the website is about. So, for a photographer’s website, it’s essential to make sure there is enough textual content for the search engines to understand what every page is about.

Geoff’s site

If we look at Geoff’s website, we are in awe of his skills as a photographer: such beautiful pictures! You might just want to get married to get some fairytale-like photographs like that ;-)

There are things he could do though, to make his photos better findable. If we look at this gallery page, for example, we only see one photo on the URL:example of a gallery page with just one photo

Although Geoff added a great filename to the photo, a clear alt text and all the other meta data, it’s still hard for search engines to determine why this page should rank above other pages. Besides that, this gallery page contains only one photo, and therefore Google probably considers it a thin content page, leading to lower rankings. Lastly, since every photo is on a new URL, it’s harder to make all these different URLs rank.

To make these URLs rank there is a need for textual content, so we recommend adding relevant information about things like location, the couple, the theme and other nice things about the specific wedding. By adding textual content, it’s also possible to add an H1 heading to every page which is beneficial for SEO. Lots of pages don’t have an H1 heading at the moment.

After providing this feedback to Geoff we understood that there was some content, but it’s hidden. You can find it if you click on the comment icon on the right side of the photo. Unfortunately, we can’t view this content in the source code, which means Google can’t see it either. So we’d recommend to add it below the photo. Using keywords like wedding photography and the location might help him rank locally.

Improving User Experience for more conversions

Usability and SEO

Improving user experience is increasingly important and should go hand in hand with working on SEO because Google uses ‘user signals’ to determine the relevancy of a website:

If visitors leave your website very fast, search engines consider this a negative signal, because the website probably doesn’t show the information the visitor is looking for. On the other hand, spending lots of time on a page is a positive signal and search engines might rank you higher. This kind of data helps Google to determine the relevancy of a website for a specific search term. Google wants to show the best result on top of the search result pages and if your website is user-friendly, Google will notice this in the user data.

Geoff’s homepage

Looking at the homepage of Geoff’s site – again, such a beautiful picture! – we think a clear call-to-action is missing. It could be that the ‘Enter here’ is meant as a call-to-action, but the ghost button makes it very hard to read:

no clear call to action on the homepage

On top of that, ‘Enter here’ is not the best text for a call-to-action and if you click on it, you’ll end up on a gallery page. We recommend adding a call-to-action button with a text such as ‘Hire us’ or ‘Check if we’re a good match’ or ‘Contact us’, which leads the visitor to the respective page with more information.

Another improvement for the homepage is the formatting of the text. At the bottom of the homepage, we noticed a lot of text and the font of this text seems to be quite small. We recommend using a minimum of 16px to make sure it’s easy to read for visitors. Also, Geoff might want to use copy like this on other pages than his homepage, because ranking with other – more specific – pages than a homepage might be a more feasible strategy.

Geoff’s menu

Looking at the menu of the website, we believe there are too many options. To provide a good user experience, visitors need to find in a few seconds what they’re looking for. Offering too many choices makes this harder. Geoff could, for instance, consider cutting down the number of sub items in the drop down menu of ‘Info’.

to many sub items in the menu
Value of a blog

Blogging and SEO

Having a blog can be beneficial for your site’s SEO because it’s a possibility to add new content regularly, which Google likes. On top of that, it enables you to add more relevant content with internal links to your other pages which makes it easier to rank. Lastly, when other websites think that your blog posts are valuable and relevant to their websites, they’ll probably add a link to your blog. Increasing the amount of backlinks to your site helps a lot when you want your site to rank.

Geoff’s blog

Since we’re blogging a lot at Yoast, we’re always curious to see blogs of other websites. We were so excited to find out that Geoff’s website has one! Clicking through to the blog, however, tempered our excitement: the blog opened on another domain. This, unfortunately, means that the value of the blog doesn’t add much value to Geoff’s main website. We advise Geoff to move his blog to his main domain, a better URL to use would be, for instance, geoffwilkings.com/blog.

Read more: ‘Separate domains or not?’ »

In addition to moving the blog to the same domain, we’d advise choosing a different layout for the blog’s main page. Now it just shows just a large video above the fold. But when visitors navigate to your blog, they want to see what kind of posts you write and probably get inspiration. We recommend showing some excerpts of Geoff’s blog posts above the fold to make sure visitors know immediately that they landed on his blog.

When clicking through the blog posts, we did like what we see! For instance, some nice atmospheric posts about shootings for an engagement and a wedding, and a good explanation about retouching photos (we love the slider effect).

Technical SEO improvements

Let’s dive into the technical SEO aspects. We’ve crawled the website to check whether there are huge problems. We need to say that the website is doing a pretty good job! The only thing we’d like to mention is the use of canonicals. We noticed that most pages don’t have a canonical. At Yoast, we prefer to have a canonical on every page, so we’d advise having self-referencing canonical URLs. Joost explained this very well here: rel=canonical: the ultimate guide.

Is it possible to have a fast loading website if you have lots of high-quality photos?

Speed is often an issue on photographer’s websites. Because of the file size of the images, those websites tend to load quite slow. Since page speed is an actual ranking factor, it’s important to make the website as fast as possible. Analyze your website with the Google PageSpeed Tool and if the tool tells you that you need to optimize images, do so. This can be beneficial for your site’s SEO.

We did this check for Geoff’s site and we were pleasantly surprised! The website has a score of 73/100. Of course, Geoff can improve this score, but we can tell you, we’ve often seen photographer’s websites with scores below 50. The tool recommends to ‘Optimize images’, but it only mentions one image mentioned, so good job!

Are you a photographer as well and are there more images mentioned in the tool? In this post about image optimization, we’ll explain how to reduce the file size of your images, but maintain the same quality.

Lastly, there are some improvements to make regarding the use of JavaScript and CSS, in optimizing browser caching and enabling compression. We recommend Geoff to work on these issues (perhaps together with a developer) to make his website lightning fast!

Finding a photographer on a mobile phone

Imagine you’re getting married. Right after you decided to get married, you probably grab your phone for some inspiration and ideas! This means that as a photographer, you need to make sure your website works just as well on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop.

Checking the website of Geoff on a mobile phone, we noticed that no content is visible above the fold – the part of the website that is visible without scrolling. This means that the website looks like this:

on mobile

You probably understand that this view isn’t very attractive to visitors who visit the website for the first time. Grab the attention of the visitor immediately by adding some introductory content and a call-to-action. Or a stunning photo with a call-to-action. We recommend checking your website on mobile regularly to see whether you can use the same content as on the desktop.

We provided this feedback to Geoff and we’re really happy to hear that he already changed this! You’ll now see a much better version of his homepage on mobile!

Our summary for Geoff

We enjoyed checking your website, Geoff. You have some stunning photos on your site, and that’s, of course, the best basis for a photographer. On top of this, you run a blog! Our most important recommendation is to move your blog to your main domain, so the value of it contributes more to your site.

Furthermore, you could improve the call-to-action on your homepage, simplify your menu a bit and add more (textual) content to your gallery. And last but not least, try to give your mobile users an awesome experience too. For the rest, keep up the great work!

Keep reading: ‘Blogging: the ultimate guide’ »

“Above the fold” is a term originating from newspaper and tabloid design. It refers to the upper half of the paper that shows the most important news and photos of the newspaper. In web design “above the fold” means the part that you can see without scrolling down the page. Guidelines often state that your most important message should be above the fold. However, the Twenty Seventeen theme just allows for a large image, and we received a question about that at Ask Yoast:

Ruth Maude emailed us about the Twenty Seventeen theme – the new default theme for WordPress:

“We’ve always told our customers that their main message and call-to-action should be above the fold. The new WordPress Twenty Seventeen is all image above the fold. Isn’t the fold important anymore?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

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Not much action above the fold?

In the video, I’ll share how I feel about “above the fold” nowadays:

Well, Ruth, you’ve hit my single most important issue with the Twenty Seventeen theme. It’s just too big. I think something should be above the fold too. At the same time, what’s really most important is that you show people that there’s a way to scroll. If people see that there’s a way to scroll on your site, they will scroll and they will find that other stuff, if you’ve made it interesting enough for them. So really good imagery is what Twenty Seventeen is all about. That can really help. And it can give a sort of interaction with a user that can be pretty good. But I wish there was a bit more action above the fold on 2017 too. We agree.

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 find the perfect WordPress theme’ »

If your business website’s goal is to get in touch with (potential) customers, you should avoid a number of contact page mistakes. Here, we’ll mention the mistakes we find most annoying. And we’re not unique in that.

In my previous post about contact pages, I already mentioned that the right content on this page can improve both user experience and SEO. In the comments on that post, Simon asked: “What do you think are the 5 most common mistakes on a website contact page?” What I think are the most common mistakes makes it my personal list, so I decided to dedicate this post to what I find the most annoying :)

Let’s dive straight in with number one. 

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#1 Just a form

If your contact page consists of a form and nothing but a form, you are not serving all of your visitors. Naturally, there will always be people that don’t understand the form. Provide a fallback option, like an email address or a phone number. Here are some reasons why people might dislike / do not understand your form:

  • Your form is too long. People get lost or simply don’t take the time to fill out all the things you want to know. Keep forms short and clear.
  • Your form isn’t responsive. This ruins the mobile experience on your contact page. Labels might get lost, as a mobile browser will focus on the form fields.
  • Your form can get broken. Perhaps you missed an update of your favorite contact plugin, just to name one reason.

#2 Fancy names for your contact page

Don’t you just hate it when you have to do an internal search on a website just to find their contact page? In my opinion, there are two options:

  1. Add the menu item “Contact” to your main and/or footer menu.
  2. Add your contact page at example.com/contact/.

I won’t look in any other spots. It’s straight to your search or back to Google to find the next company that’s going to answer my question. Preferably, you want that link to your contact page to be above the fold. But I have to say that a footer link is common as well, both as an extra and as the main link.

Just like the link in the URL, I’d like the title of that page to be “Contact” or a variation of that, like “Contact us” or “Get in touch”. Don’t use “Let’s talk business” or whatever strange sentence that won’t cover the immediate goal of the page. It will confuse people, even in Google already. Make it clear that this is the page where they can get in contact with you.

#3 Outdated information

C’mon people. Like all your other pages, your contact page needs some tender love and care from time to time. Moving offices? Adjust your website. New sales rep? Change profile picture and email address. Make sure your information is accurate at all times.

Don’t take this lightly, I think outdated information is one of those contact page mistakes that we choose to ignore sometimes. “I’ll get to that one of these days”. “It’s on my to do list”. No, update it when it changes. And if your address changes, let Google know in the process.

#4 Make sure people can contact you privately

That means “Reach out to me on the WordPress Slack”, “Talk to me on Twitter”, or even “Drop a comment below” isn’t enough. And yes, contact pages that use a comment form as a contact form do exist. People that want to talk to you probably just want to talk to you. Make sure they can.

Is it wise to display links to social profiles on a contact page? I believe that only makes sense if you want people to contact you on, for instance, Twitter and you monitor these social profiles for questions. If you mention Instagram on your contact page and don’t check Instagram at least every other day, it’s probably not the preferred way to contact you. In that case, that link shouldn’t be on your contact page.

Best case scenario: two options to contact you privately (form and email address or phone number would be a nice start), so if one fails, visitors can use the other.

#5 Not having a contact page at all

If only I got a penny for every website I came across that lacks a (clear) contact page… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: every website should have a contact page. Most websites are set up to interact with the visitor, get them to buy products or provide information. But they can always have extra questions or interesting business opportunities for you. Make sure it’s clear how they can get in touch.

It’s probably the most obvious of all the contact page mistakes listed here, but I just felt the need to mention it.

Are there any more contact page mistakes you can think of?

For sure. And if you’d ask me the same question on another day, I could probably come up with more. The above ones are the ones I find most annoying, but what about:

  • No clear confirmation that a form is sent. So I’ll send it again. Just in case.
  • Crappy captchas. The horror! Need I say more?
  • Contact pages that are flooded with distractions. I just want to contact you!

Now over to you

Feel free to spill your guts in the comments. Let me know what annoys you the most about contact pages!

Read more: ‘What makes a great contact page? With lots of examples!’ »

We’re thrilled to announce that CRO expert Karl Gilis will be speaking at YoastCon on November 2! Karl Gilis from AGConsult is one of the most influential usability and conversion optimization specialists in the world, and our personal go-to-guy if we need advice on these matters for Yoast.com. We’ve asked him 5 questions, or actually 6, to warm you up for his talk on YoastCon. Read on if you want to find out which trends annoy Karl the most and what the most unexpected improvement was he ever saw on a website.

Don’t want to miss the ‘conversion comedian’ on stage? Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
Tickets

AGConsult is specialized in optimizing website conversion and usability. If you could give people only one advice to improve their site’s conversion, what would it be?

That’s a very easy question to start with :-) No, it’s an incredible difficult one. On a more generic level I would say: listen to your clients and visitors.

  • What words are they using?
  • What questions do they have?
  • What do they really like about your product or service?
  • How did it help to make their life better / easier / …?

Use these insights to rewrite your copy. Because your copy is probably written from your point of view: you talk about what you think is important. Don’t do that. Focus on what your clients think and say. Use their words. Don’t sell the way you want to sell, sell the way people want to buy.

If you want a more practical hands-on tip, I would say: get rid of all the clutter. Print a typical and important page from your website, such as a product detail page or your order form. Take a red marker and draw a big red cross on all the things that you make you wonder ‘Why is that here, isn’t this a distraction from my main message’? Remove all those things.

Less clutter will result in:

  • Faster loading times, especially when you have lots of fluffy stuff or stock photos that don’t add to your message.
  • A cleaner look. And yes: the less elements you have, the clearer your message will be. 
A great example of this is the top part of the homepage of Airbnb, especially now they finally removed the sliders and the video background.
  • More room to add things that will result in more sales. Things like social proof or a sense of urgency.

Come see Karl Gilis speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

Scientific evidence is what drives you. Do you have an example where your research wiped the floor with design trends and hypes?

Don’t get me started about design trends and hypes. Most of them don’t increase sales or conversions. They only help design agencies and designers make more money. When a design change is not driven by a business or user need, it’s a big gamble to change something.

3 examples:

  1. Sliders with different messages
    They’re part of almost every theme for WordPress and other platforms, because they’re fun to make and beautiful to look at. But they don’t convert.
Your website is not a piece of art. It’s a tool. A sales tool.
 When we removed the slider on the Suzuki homepage and showed 2 static images instead, this resulted in 55% more clicks in the same screen real estate.
  2. Flat design and ghost buttons
    A few years ago designers decided that buttons shouldn’t look like buttons anymore. They introduced so-called ghost buttons. Where a button is just a square line around some words. So it’s more inline with the design and it doesn’t attract attention.
 Excuse me: your call-to-action should attract attention. That’s what it’s there for!
 What we’ve seen is when a site went from a normal button to a ghost button, the number of clicks on non-clickable elements increased with 600%. Because users had no clue where to click.
  3. Video background
    They’re the new Flash and the new sliders rolled into one. So please avoid them.
 A moving background is always a distraction from your message. And visitors should focus on your message. 
We’ve done several tests where we replaced a video-background with a static background and saw an uplift. 
It’s no coincidence even AirBnB ditched their video background for -euhm- nothing. Yep, there’s nothing wrong with a white background.

As a consultant you must have seen changes on dozens of websites over the years. What was the most unexpected improvement that you’ve ever seen happen on a website?

Another difficult one. What probably surprises me the most is that I’m still often surprised. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned thanks to AB-testing. There are always exceptions to the rules and guidelines. Don’t get me wrong: there are best practices. But they do not always work on every website.

When you’re asking for a specific case, I think of the shopping cart of an online shop selling watches and sunglasses. We took away all friction, made delivery time and shipping costs extra clear and everything that is in the classical usability book. But the results were still disappointing.

Then we added the message ‘You’ve made an excellent choice’. And whoppa: sales went up by a huge margin. Why? Because we supported the user in his choice. We took away their biggest fear: will this watch or sunglass suit me? So, don’t only focus on taking away the imperfections of your site. Give compliments too!

Your specialization is conversion and usability, ours is SEO. Do you feel these two are interconnected, or would you rather see them as two separate areas?

They are interconnected. And more people need to realize that. On a generic level this is pretty obvious. When you attract lots of people to your site but they don’t do anything (buy, subscribe, …), you’ll be out of business soon. When you have a website that converts like crazy but you don’t have any visitors, you have a problem too.

But also on a deeper level SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) are very connected. When we do AB-tests the big changes almost always come from changes in words. And I’m not talking about random changes, but using the right words that tickle the human brain. As I said earlier: if you use the same words as your clients, they’ll have the feeling you understand them. When you relate to their problems, dreams and hopes, they will more likely convert than when you use corporate lingo and only talk about features. And I guess your readers know that those things are also important for SEO. Use the same word as your audience.

In all these years I’ve never had big conflicts with good SEO specialists. I only have fights with black hat SEO people or those who use the old tricks that don’t work anymore (keyword stuffing, anyone?). Never forget: you’re optimizing for people. Not only for Google. And not for the sake of usability as such either. You’re optimizing your website for your audience.

Failure is an important part of finding out how to make things work in the best possible way. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned while working for any of the big brands you’ve worked for?

Most big brands are afraid of failure. They don’t want to take risks. But that means you’ll reach a status quo. You have to take calculated risks. Based on user research and past experience you identify the weak points of site of page. And then you start making changes.

Small changes will mostly result in small results. Big, bold changes will result in big changes. Hopefully an uplift, but sometimes a drop in sales. But that’s why you test. And you learn something from those failures. What we often see is that our 2nd or 3rd test after a big failure, results in a big winner. And if you implement that winner, the gains of that will be so much bigger than that temporarily loss in sales or leads during the test. Big (and smaller) brands who understand this, will often choose to test more. And the more you test, the more you learn, and the more winners you’ll have.

Conversion optimization is not a project. Not something you do once. It’s a continuous process. And when you keep doing it, it will result in big wins. 
Just as it is with SEO. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Come see Karl Gilis speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

We assume this interview has convinced people to go see your talk at YoastCon on November 2! In the unlikely case someone is still in doubt, what’s the main reason they shouldn’t miss your talk?

Who am I to answer why people need to see me? If you insist, I think there are 3 reasons:
· My talk will be full of practical hands-on tips. Little tricks you can apply yourself and will result in more sales and conversions.
· There’s also a more strategic layer that focuses on techniques and methods that you can also apply yourself.
· You will laugh a lot. People call me the conversion comedian and I do my best to put a smile on everybody’s face.

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

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’ »