In an ideal world, every single page of your website would be accessible from that one, site-wide website menu. But as you, as a web developer or website owner, undoubtedly know, the real world of websites is far from ideal. We struggle with multiple devices, fixed-width websites, themes that can hardly be changed without creating new problems, and so on and so forth. Nevertheless, the website menu is the most common aid for navigation on your website and you want to make the best possible use of it. Here, I’ll address a number of useful best practices that allow you to optimize your website menu for both your users and SEO.

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Website menus

First of all, I think we should forget the assumption that a website can only have one menu. I think we have become used to the small links in the upper bar on a website.

Website menu: greenday.com

Like so many other websites, Greenday.com has a first menu in the black bar, whereas the red bar also contains a number of links to internal or external pages. Social profiles, Apple Music and Spotify links, but also a newsletter subscription.

Website menu: Manhattan College

Manhattan College has a clear second menu leading to internal pages, aimed at specific audiences. It just goes to show that these extra menus are everywhere.

My point here? Don’t put everything in one menu. Doing that clutters your website and makes your main menu a poor reflection of your site structure. Focus on the most important content. For instance: I do like a ‘Contact’ link in a menu. But only add one if your main goal is that your visitors contact you. Otherwise, that link can be placed in a second website menu without a problem.

The downsides of too many links in your website menu

Too many links, anywhere on your page, isn’t recommended. Yes, Google may allow up to 250 links and perhaps even more on a page without any problems. But your website’s goal’s probably not to make sure your visitors can’t see the wood for the trees. We recommend against:

  • Tag clouds (what’s the use, really?)
  • Long lists of monthly links to your blog archive (don’t use date archives!)
  • Infinitely scrollable archive pages with links to articles (at least add excerpts and load more articles on scroll)
  • A hundred categories in a list (why so many!)
  • Menus with submenus and sub-submenus and so on

Why do we recommend against this? Having too many links on a page messes up your link value, for one. With so many links on a page, every link from that page is just a little less valuable for the page it links to. Besides that, it messes up the focus of your visitor. With every link, you add a diversion from the main goal of your website.

In my opinion, you do need to have a solid reason to add more than one submenu. And if you feel you need that extra level in your menu, monitor the number of clicks that menu gets and adjust if needed. I think you are much better off creating good landing pages for your submenu items, in many cases.

Read on: ‘How to clean up your site structure’ »

The perfect menu

Of course, there is no template for ‘the perfect menu’. Much of it depends on your site and on what your goals are. In any case, there are two important questions you should ask yourself when optimizing your menu:

  • What is the best menu structure for my site?
  • What menu items should at least be in my menu?

Two more tips we can give you is to use a drop-down menu for important sub items. And don’t add too many links to your menu, or they will lose their value. Do you have other tips for a good site menu? Let us know in the comments!

Read more: ‘The Ultimate guide to site structure’ »

The post Optimizing your website menu for SEO appeared first on Yoast.

“SEO is more about being in ALL the right places at the right time.” That’s how SEO and internet marketer Roy Huiskes describes the importance of a complete online presence. He has worked in the business since 2003 and consulted for several big brands. With loads of experience in CRO, analytics and all aspects of online marketing, he’s one of the best SEO experts in Europe. So it goes without saying that we’re delighted to announce he’ll be joining our panel discussion at YoastCon. To top it off, he’ll also give a hands-on workshop on keyword research!

Want to take your own keyword research to the next level? Sign up for his workshop! Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
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You’re an SEO and online marketer. Do you feel these are still two separate areas, as SEO is becoming more and more about optimizing your complete online presence (including social media etc)?

I never felt these were separate domains. From the first days, I’ve always seen SEO as understanding the consumer’s needs and creating value around that. Google only caught on to this later on, so tactics might have changed a bit, but the strategy of understanding the consumer’s needs is still the same.

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So, to answer the question: Yes, SEO is more about being in ALL the right places at the right time to get better results. There are quite a few cases that prove that the searches themselves and the connection between ‘brand’ and ‘top keyword’ are very relevant to increase your organic traffic. This can only be achieved by being a bigger brand.

You’ve once predicted the rise of local SEO. Nowadays, optimizing for local is very important. Any tips for local entrepreneurs on what to focus on?

Yes. It’s a very natural factor for Google to consider, especially with an 80%+ market share in the mobile market. People are looking for this information. In the English language, the ‘near me’ query is critical. While this could also work in the Netherlands, we don’t see similar behavior that often. Opening hours is quite remarkable though.

So, make sure you do your keyword research very well and not ‘globally’, but understand how the consumer searches in each country or culture. This is getting even more important if you consider the use of devices like Google Home, Cortana, Amazon Echo or Siri. This will probably result in a huge shift in the type of search terms people are using. Since these kinds of queries are on 20% already, this transition is something to focus on.

As a consultant working for major brands, you’ve seen lots of websites in your career. What’s the biggest mistake you think website owners make when it comes to SEO?

I’m not sure. It could be two things:

  • Not training the development teams well and in a more technical, advanced way
  • The lack of keyword/intention research and the unwillingness to make UX changes on this.

I think I’ll go with the UX though. I’ve seen a lot of quality, easy to understand SEO stuff be put away, in favor of all kinds of fancy-pants UX that nobody needed, often because of some CRO goal setting that wasn’t backed up by data.

SEO of the future: what should website owners focus on if they want to rank now AND in the future? Are there any important changes coming up that we should know about?

Well, I don’t believe in the mantra: ‘create for the user, and they will come’, although I do think you should put user behavior first. The users won’t come automatically after a reasonable amount of time. We need to do more work. Market your website properly, making sure people know what they can find, do and buy on your site, and what your brand stands for.

But it all starts with being clever about your target audience and their needs. So proper user research that focuses on intentions and keywords will teach you a lot about your consumers. Then start experimenting, learn more about your customers in A/B tests and help them in your journey to a better product that attracts even more happy users.

Why shouldn’t people miss your talk at YoastCon?

Well, how nice of you to ask, good question. The answer to the previous question is what I’m going to provide. Or at least how I’m doing that for my clients. I’ll teach you how to do proper keyword research, focus on intentions and gather all the useful data to make smart decisions.

Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!
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Today, it’s time for another Ask Yoast case study. In this edition, we’ll give SEO advice to a local business owner. We received a cry for help from Hussein Ibrahim who owns the car services site seattletowncarbestride.com. Hussein wanted to know what he could do – apart from using our Yoast SEO Premium plugin – to get excellent rankings for his business in the major search engines. Well, Hussein, here we go!

Local SEO

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

Structured data

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

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

Google My Business

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

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

Ratings and reviews

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

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

Speeding up your site

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

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

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

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

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

Taking care of your user’s needs

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

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

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

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

image missing homepage

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

Writing content for both your visitors and Google

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping up with the times

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

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

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

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

Mobile view of their homepage

Closing remarks

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

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

With our Ask Yoast case studies we help clients with their SEO by reviewing the website and giving clear advice and hands-on tips. Those clients send us their website because they’re curious what improvements can be made to improve the overall rankings. This time, we reviewed the website of a high-quality sun protection brand: Calypso. The brand started many years ago in the UK but is nowadays sold all around the globe. Let’s dive into the website to see what they’re doing well and what things need improvement. 

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A clean entrance

On entering the website, we immediately see a clean and inviting homepage. The homepage makes sure visitors can easily navigate to the most important content of the website: the actual products. However, we also see things that can be improved.

First of all, we see the slider on top of the homepage. We’re not a big fan of sliders because different studies show that only around 1% of your visitors would actually click on a slide. Besides, sliders often slow down your website a lot, and there are a lot more reasons which you can find in the post linked above.

We think the slider on Calypsosun.com is even more confusing because it contains a video. When a visitor presses the play button within the video, he or she is sent to the video on YouTube:

Slider image link to video

The play button which sends visitors to YouTube

This means that you say goodbye to your visitors in an early stage of their visit. Try to keep them on your website and send them to your content.

What is the best practice in this case? In our eyes, another image, which is now below the fold on the homepage, would be a great top image:

Sun Protection banner

This banner would be a great top image for the homepage

The image contains some introductory content which tells your visitors what’s on the website. Adding a clear call-to-action below this image would be great. Think of a button with a text such as ‘See all products’ to guide your visitors to the product overview page. Below this call-to-action, you can still show the top sellers as you do now.

What are the site’s pages about?

Google needs to understand what a website’s pages are about before the pages can rank for certain keywords. Of course, textual content tells Google what a page is about. An important part of your text are the headings. Headings are meant to tell Google what the main subject of a page is and what other relevant subjects are on the page. This means that the main subject of a page should always be an H1 heading. Subheadings in the text should be H2 or H3 and less important headings should be H4, H5, etc. We recommend using H4 and higher for headings in a sidebar or footer because Google shouldn’t use those to determine what the page is about.

For example, checking one of the product pages of Calypso, we noticed there is no H1 or H2 heading.

The headings on a product page

The name of the product is an H3 heading, but this should be the H1 heading. The subheading ‘Directions of Use’ doesn’t tell so much about the subject of this page so this could indeed be an H5. When the subheading is relevant to the text, it should be an H2 of H3 heading.

Another way of telling Google what a page or post is about is optimizing your site’s metadata such as page titles and meta descriptions. We noticed that Calypso uses great page titles and meta descriptions so they’ve already understood how important this can be for SEO.

Making your pages stronger

It’s clear that every website needs content to rank for certain keywords. If content is well-structured with headings, and page titles are optimized, it’s time to make your most important pages stronger. For Calypso, their product pages are most important because these reflect the products the company is based on. In this case, the product overview page could benefit from a little more SEO-optimized copy.

You might think that blog posts on the website are less relevant. However, blog posts can be valuable in another way, which we’ll explain in the next paragraph. You’ll always have important content and less important pages and posts, but even those have their purpose.

Let Google know what’s important

How do you let Google know what pages are more important? By adding internal links from all relevant pages to the most important pages, you make those pages stronger. When a certain page has lots of links from relevant other pages, Google understands that this page might contain the most important content around a keyword. Make sure you add relevant anchor texts to the internal links to make Google understand for what keywords the most important pages of your website should rank.

For example, when you write a blog post about the best sun protection for kids, you should add internal links to the actual products. If you use anchor text such as ‘Sun protection for kids’, it will be clear to Google what the relevancy between the pages is. Doing this consistently, your product pages will get more and more links and will become the strongest pages of your website.

The ‘Be Sun Ready’ page could be a great cornerstone article for ranking on relevant keywords. This page, however, could benefit from a few optimizations: they could add links to relevant products in the content and a call-to-action-button to the products page. Doing keyword research should provide them with enough keyword suggestions to make this great page SEO-proof.

The products overview

Navigating to the product overview page, we noticed that the categories are visible in tabs above the products:

Product overview Calypsosun

The categories are shown in the tabs above the products

We recommend adding narrow signs to make sure visitors understand that more content can be found clicking on those tabs. Think of a drop-down sign like we use in our main menu:

Screenshot of the main menu of Yoast.com

The drop-down signs after each menu item

You’ll see that these signs will make it clearer to your visitors that they can click on the tabs. Make your site as user-friendly as possible, because the signals users provide are precious as Google uses these as well in their algorithm. Since SEO and UX are increasingly tied, it’s important to improve those user signals.

Using buttons to guide your visitors

Clear buttons can have a positive effect on the page path visitors take. You can guide your visitors to the pages you want them to go to next page. For example, you could add a button below each product which says ‘More information’. Doing this, you guide the visitors to the specific product pages and you make sure visitors understand that they can find more content related to the product by clicking on it. Now, the only way visitors see that there is a link behind the product on the current overview is by hovering over the image.

The product pages already have clear calls-to-action added: buttons which say ‘Where to buy’:

The ‘Where to buy’ button is a clear call-to-action

However, there is a way to increase the number of clicks on this button. We recommend changing the color of the button into a color that’s not in your color scheme. Doing this, the button will stand out more and might get more visitors to click on the button. Don’t you think the button catches your eye when it’s in another color?

We’ve changed the color of the button to make it stand out more

Of course, if you have a sufficient amount of traffic you can – and should – do A/B tests for these kinds of things. After an A/B test, you can easily conclude what color works best.

The last tip we want to give for the product page is related to the ‘Where to buy’ section. After clicking on the button, a screen pops up with the names of all the different resellers of the products. However, the only supplier which contains a link is Amazon and this logo is placed at the bottom of the popup screen. When visitors come to your website, they are already online, and they might immediately want to buy your products online. This means that it could be a good idea to guide them to Amazon first to give them the opportunity to buy your products directly.

Make sure your website loads fast

An important issue on the website of Calypso is page speed. Page speed is crucial in the eyes of Google and is considered to be a ranking factor in the future mobile-first index. The longer it takes to load a page, the less user-friendly the page is. Probably you’ll agree that it can be annoying if you have to wait too long for a web page to load. Visitors will bounce because of the loading times and this is a negative user signal, like we mentioned before.

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Testing the website of Calypso in the Google PageSpeed Tool we noticed a very low score: 18/100. This means you’ll have to start working on the loading times of the website. All possible improvements regarding speed are listed in the Google PageSpeed tool. We recommend starting with enabling compression and with optimizing images. Resolving those two issues probably results in the quickest and easiest increase in the page speed score.

To sum it up

We really loved reviewing the website of your well-known sun protection brand. You’ve created a very clean and clear website and with a couple of changes, you can improve your site’s SEO as well.

For your homepage, we recommend removing the slider and instead, add a clear image which reflects the website. Some introductory content will tell your visitors what the website is about and with a clear call-to-action you can guide your visitors to the most important pages.

To make those crucial pages even stronger, we recommend setting up an internal linking strategy. Make sure your internal linking reflects the hierarchy of the website to help Google understand the site structure. Besides that, using the right headings will improve the site structure as well.

And last, but definitely not least, working on your site’s loading times can be very beneficial. Increasing the page speed score will be valuable for both your visitors as for your site’s SEO. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Ask Yoast case study: SEO of an online shop’ »

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.

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

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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’ »