We have a new release for you: Yoast SEO 14.6. This release has some pretty cool enhancements, plus new additions for Yoast SEO Premium users. We’re continuing our run of languages that get word form support with two new ones: Indonesian and Portuguese. Find what’s new in Yoast SEO 14.6!
Word form recognition in Yoast SEO Premium
We all know high-quality content is essential for any site. Producing that amazing content, however, is not always so easy. For many of you, writing doesn’t come natural, so you welcome help with open arms. This is one of the reasons why we introduced the readability analyses way back when.
The analyses work well and give you advice you can count on, but, sometimes, it can feel as if you are trying to please the machine and not the human, so to say. We get that. Text analysis and recognition is hard, but we’ve managed to make a lot better with word form support in Yoast SEO Premium. Thanks to this, the plugin can now recognize different grammatical forms of your focus keyphrase, making it easier to optimize your text. Plus, as a Premium user you also get to use the synonyms and related keyphrase feature.
As of Yoast SEO 14.6, if you write in Indonesian or Portuguese, you can get a more flexible, natural writing and editing environment. All these tools are fine-tuned to help you build the best possible content, without having to think about awkwardly fitting in keywords to get green bullets.
Wondering how that works? Check out the videos! Yes, we did a video for each language:
List of languages
The list of languages that have word form support is getting longer and longer, with more on the way!
English (since Yoast SEO 9.0)
German (since Yoast SEO 10.1)
Dutch (since Yoast SEO 13.4)
Spanish (since Yoast SEO 13.5)
French (in beta, since Yoast SEO 14.1)
Russian (in beta since Yoast SEO 14.2)
Italian (in beta since Yoast SEO 14.3)
Indonesian (in beta since Yoast SEO 14.6)
Portuguese (in beta since Yoast SEO 14.6)
In beta: help us improve!
In Yoast SEO 14.6, we’re adding two new languages: Portuguese and Indonesian. Again, this is a beta release, and we’d like you to help us improve it. Now, we can find and recognize word forms in Portuguese and Indonesian much better than before, but not as good as the other languages we’ve implemented. That might mean that we don’t recognize every word correctly or that you’re noticing false-positives. If you find that happens, let us know!
There’s a feedback option below the focus keyphrase field that you can use to contact us. Please send us:
The focus keyphrase you’ve used for this specific piece of text.
The sentence in which you’ve noticed one of the assessments working incorrectly for the focus keyphrase you mentioned above.
You can do this for all languages now in beta: French, Russian, Italian, Indonesian and Portuguese.
In Yoast SEO 14.5, we introduced a new publishing flow that helps you keep track of your SEO scores during every part of the publication process. In Yoast SEO 14.6, we’ve added another helpful indicator that lets you see your scores for a particular post — quickly. We made the plugin icon in the editor reflect the SEO and Readability score. Cool, right? We’ve also improved the editing experience in the Social tab and give that part a dab of fresh paint.
Yoast SEO 14.6, comes with a number of language improvements. For example, we’ve improved the transition words analysis for Russian, and we’ve improved keyphrase counting in Indonesian. We’ve also rewritten the feedback for the keyphrase in title assessment to make it clear that an exact keyphrase match is necessary. Finally, we’ve improved recognition of keywords that contain a hyphen in the slug (for example: re-duplicated, on-the-go).
Other fixes and enhancements
There’s a lot of other stuff to find in this release and, as always, you can find all changes in the changelog. One of the most interesting is that we’re now automatically noindexing the xmlrpc.php file in WordPress and all possible ways to request it, removing them from Google’s search results. This prevents Google from unnecessarily trying to index these feeds.
In the sharing metadata used for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and many other sites, we now output the post title instead of the SEO title. This prevents the brand name from being added in most cases, which is better on those platforms. Of course, you can still set a specific sharing title on the Social tab of the Yoast SEO post settings.
Yoast SEO 14.6: Cool stuff
That’s it for Yoast SEO 14.6! In this release, you’ll find many fixes and enhancements. We made a number of improvements to our handling of languages. For our Premium users, we added word form support for Indonesian and Portuguese — bringing the total of supported languages to nine.
“If only I could simply wave my wand and have a super fast website!” This has probably crossed your mind as well, right? Optimizing site speed and user experience is a lot of work and gets technical — and complicated — really fast. Most site owners or managers quickly need to talk to their developers to get stuff done. Now, the new Core Web Vitals metrics give you more insights and pointers at what to fix. Let’s go over five things you can do to boost your Core Web Vitals score.
Look, there’s not one thing that’s guaranteed to fix one specific issue. You have to take a broader view of optimizing your site. A lot of little fixes make up big results. So, while I’ll give you five things you can work on here, this is nowhere near definitive. Even Google says many elements work together to come up with scores, so it’s hard to pinpoint if you do this, then that score will go up.
What Google does give you, is insights into what’s slowing stuff down or what’s hurting the user experience. Many tools also give advice on how to fix stuff. Web.de/measure, for instance, doesn’t do in-depth results, but it does give you an idea of what the impact of a particular fix is.
Google’s upcoming page experience update
We’ve published a couple of articles about Google’s page experience update — coming sometime in 2021 —, so you can start here if you need more background information:
Over the years, there’s been constant talk about the importance of site speed and user experience. But while there’s a ton of material out there on how to optimize your site, putting that knowledge into practice is hard. These past few months, Google once again put speed front and center with the page experience update happing next year. To help you get ready for that, it developed tools to give you insights and a lot of documentation to read.
For a lot of issues, the advice hasn’t really changed that much. It all boils down to getting the main content to your users as quickly as possible. Run through the test to see how your site performs, try to prioritize the fixes and get started! Below you’ll find a mix of old and new ways of enhancing your site.
Optimize your images
I’ll start off this list with a golden oldie: optimizing images. One of the most important things you can do for your site is properly optimize your images. Yes, we said that a million times but we’re going to say it again: do it. That one big unoptimized image on your homepage or landing page might hurt you. Large images are often the largest contentful paint (LCP) for any given site. Make sure you give your visitors a proper welcome by making that load quick!
We have a popular article on image SEO describing what you can do to get that image to load quickly. But in short, make sure you serve it in the size needed and compress it well. There are loads of tools to help you do this. Personally, I love the results I get with squoosh.app. Don’t think you need to keep that massive resolution for that image to be sharp on the most common screens.
Also try to adopt modern formats like WebP. These formats can deliver high quality images at a lower size. WebP is well-supported and even Apple has jumped on board! The upcoming Safari 14 release — both on MacOS as well as iOS — will support WebP. Yes, the new Chromium powered Microsoft Edge browser also supports WebP.
Your CMS is also a tool that’ll help you improve the loading images. Due in August, WordPress 5.5 will support lazy loading of images. This means it will only load those images that appear on screen and leaves the rest to load when the user interacts with that screen. This tells the browser to load large images only when they are needed.
Another piece of evergreen site speed advice is the use of a CDN, but did you know you can also use a CDN specifically for images? An image CDN gives you more control over how you want to serve and how you want these to appear. An image pushed by an image CDN gets a string of properties in its URL which tells the browser how the image should behave.
Stabilize loading by specifying room for images and the like
One of the new metrics is cumulative layout shift, or CLS for short. An example of this is when a mobile page looks ready and just when you want to hit a button, the content shifts and a slow loading ad appears in that place. This happens often and is one of the main causes of frustration for users. Now, while optimizing your CLS won’t necessarily make your page be faster it sure makes it feel faster.
CLS is caused by images without dimensions in the CSS. It can also be caused by ads and embeds without dimension, or dynamically injected content. When not properly given dimensions, these elements tend to jump just a bit during the loading process, making it appear jerky and unstable. This might also due to new content being inserted above existing content. Don’t do that, except maybe after an explicit interaction by the user.
One of the ways you can prevent CLS is by adding the width and height for images in the CSS. This way, the browser will reserve space for that image that’ll probably appear later than the text. Now, the jerkiness will disappear because the browser knows that something will be added in due time. You could think about adding some sort of low-resolution placeholder if you want sometime to appear quickly.
So, simply make sure that your images have proper width and height attributes set. Of course, you can also do this with regular responsive images. Just make sure that you are using the same aspect ratio for all sizes.
<img src="mountain.jpg" width="640" height="360" alt="Mountain underneath a cloudy sky">
To cope with jumping ads or injected content, please reserve space for these as well. In the end, your CLS might just come down a bit.
Speed up your server to get that loading time down
The faster your server responds to requests, the better. Getting that server to respond quicker directly improves a lot of site speed metrics. On complex sites, the server keeps busy with handling requests and serving files and scripts, so it’s best to optimize those processes.
Optimizing your server consists of several parts. First, upgrade your hosting plan. Don’t skimp on hosting. Pick one that offers good performance at a fair price. Also, there’s the business of how the server was set up — use a recent version of PHP! — and what hardware you picked. Maybe you should upgrade the hardware if you find that lacking. Also, you need to research how your databases work and see if you can make improvements. Use tools like the Query Monitor WordPress plugin to keep analyze queries on your site.
You can also look into how your server pushes files to clients. There are several ways to enhance that process, with link rel=preload for instance, or HTTP/2 server push. These are more advanced solutions that let you fine-tune how your server responds to requests. Here, again, a CDN can do wonders.
Look into critical CSS to load above the fold content quicker
Since the CSS loads late, it can often take a while for something to appear on screen. By taking the critical bits of your design — the part that appears above the fold — out of the main CSS file and inlining it in your code, you can get something on screen much faster. Fixing this, once again, doesn’t make your site faster, but it makes it appear faster. All for that ace user experience.
Improve loading of third-party scripts
For many sites, slowness also comes from outside. If your site relies on ad scripts, for instance, you are basically in the hands of the ad provider. You can only hope that they make their ads performant. If their ads load really slow, well, maybe it’s time to find another provider.
If you find that third-party scripts slow down your site, you should look into this. Ask yourself, do I really need that particular ad? What’s the value of these scripts? There might be a different option out there that’s a bit more optimized and less stressful for your server. Maybe try that?
If possible, you can experiment with hosting the script yourself. This way, you’re a bit more in control of the loading proces. If you can’t do that, see if you can get it to preload quicker.
At the least, make sure to load the scripts asynchronously or defer it till the last moment. This way, the browser can build the page first before getting and running the external script. Use async if the script you’re loading is important, like an analytics script. You can use defer for less critical resources. There’s loads of documentation on optimizing third-party scripts.
Boost Core Web Vitals: All small improvements count
With the upcoming page experience update, Google put site speed and user experience front and center again. We’ve always looked at SEO holistically — there are many moving parts and you should work on all of them to build the best site out there. Although the tips mentioned above can help you improve those scores, you really should be doing this to offer your visitors a better experience.
Yoast SEO 14.5 is out today! In this release, we fixed a number of bugs, disabled the XML sitemaps that will arrive in WordPress 5.5 and added two new block editor blocks for our Premium users. These blocks help you with internal linking for hierarchical pages. Let’s find out more!
Meet the new internal linking blocks
We all know internal linking is very important as it is helps you build your site structure, making your site easier to digest for both humans as well as machines. We have several tools that help you improve your internal linking and today, we’re adding two internal linking blocks for the block editor that can help you improve it even further. Meet the Subpages block and the Siblings block!
A new Premium feature to improve internal linking
If you work with a lot of hierarchical post types, you’re often linking to underlying pages or to sibling pages. We thought of a way to make that process easier to do and we came up with two different — but related — blocks for working with subpages and sibling pages.
The new blocks in Yoast SEO 14.5 are very easy to use and basically do what they say on the tin. The Subpages block lists all the subpages that have that particular page as a parent. So, if I have a page about Italian food, I might have subpages like this:
Adding the Subpages block to the page, automatically presents all these subpages in a neat list.
You can add the Siblings block to any of the subpages to list the siblings of the page you’ve added it to. So, if you add it to the pasta page, it’ll automatically list the related pages, in this case pizza and soup.
Now, you can link all hierarchically related content by simply adding a block! The blocks only work on hierarchical pages, not on blog posts.
While the blocks in their naked form might seem a bit awkward for some purposes, you can style them with CSS to your hearts content. For instance, by using a bit of additional CSS you can turn them into something like this:
You don’t need much to come to the above result. For reference, find the CSS below. Remember, you can easily add custom CSS via the theme customizer in WordPress.
With WordPress 5.5, XML sitemaps make their way into WordPress core. Of course, that’s good news for the web. Together with Google, we spearheaded the project of bringing XML sitemaps to core and we’re proud that the moment has come that every WordPress site will get an XML sitemap. Now, a large part of the web will be a much friendlier place for crawlers!
As awesome as the core XML sitemaps may be, we’ve decided to disable these for Yoast SEO users and we’re continuing to use our own XML sitemaps. Our XML sitemaps are more sophisticated, integrated, and automated, that’s why we decided to disable the core WordPress XML sitemap for our users.
In Yoast SEO 14.5, Premium users can enjoy two new blocks for the block editor: the Subpages and Siblings blocks. These can help improve internal linking for hierarchical pages. They are extremely easy to use, but powerful!
We’ve also chosen to continue to use our own XML sitemaps over those in WordPress 5.5 as ours are fully developed, fast and flexible. We think these’ll serve your site best.
Some time ago, Google caused quite a stir by announcing a new ranking factor for 2021: page experience. User experience has always been a essential part of building the best site out there, but now, it will play an even bigger role in helping you build awesome sites for your customers. All this is powered by new metrics, with at the centre: the Core Web Vitals. Time to meet LCP, FID and CLS!
The Google page experience update powered by Web Vitals
We’ve talked about this page experience update before, but in this post, we’d like to take another look at those Core Web Vitals. In general, site speed metrics tend to be hard to understand and confusing. Plus, they tend to change somewhat each time you test your site. You don’t always get the same scores. So, it’s easy to say that you just have to look at some metrics in the hope they turn green.
Of all the possible metrics, Google now identifies three so-called Core Web Vitals. These are the focal point for Google in the coming year. Every year, Google might add or change these metrics as they evaluate these over a longer period of time.
Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.
For now, the three pillars of page experience are:
Loading performance (how fast does stuff appear on screen?)
Responsiveness (how fast does the page react to user input?)
Visual stability (does stuff move around on screen while loading?)
To measure these essential aspects of user experience, Google chose three corresponding metrics — aka the Core Web Vitals:
LCP, Largest Contentful Paint: This measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content to appear on the screen. This could be an image or a block of text. A good grade gives users the feeling that the site loads fast. A slow site can lead to frustration.
FIS, or First Input Delay: This measure how long it takes for the site to react to the first interaction by a user. This could be a tap on a button, for instance. A good grade here gives the user a sense that a site is quick to react to input and, therefore, responsive. Slow, again, leads to frustration.
CLS, or Content Layout Shift: This measure the visual stability of your site. In other words, does stuff move around on screen while it is loading — and how often does that happen? Nothing more frustrating than trying to click a button when a slow-loading ad appears in that spot.
Different tools use different metrics
Every page experience tool uses a number of Web Vitals, gathered from a variety of sources. As every tool has a different purpose, the metrics used differ per tool. The common denominator, however, are the Core Web Vitals as Google uses these in every page experience tool it has.
But what do all these numbers mean? What do you have to look for on your site? And when is your site fast enough? When do I have a good grade? There are a million questions you could ask about this metrics. And while Google is trying to close the gap between understanding and improving, this continues to be a complex topic. Measuring site speed and user experience is hard — there are so many things to factor in.
What are these Core Web Vitals?
The Core Web Vitals don’t work in isolation, as there are a whole lot of other metrics. Some are based on controlled lab tests, while others are metrics that only work with field data. After doing a lot of research, Google determined a new set called Web Vitals. These are a combination of metrics we already know, plus a set of new ones. The three Core Web Vitals are the most important ones and Google is specifically asking site owners to keep an eye on these scores and improve them where you can.
LCP: Largest Contentful Paint
Largest Contentful Paint measures the point at which the largest content element appears on the screen. Keep in mind that it doesn’t measure the time it takes for your page to fully load, but it simply looks at when the most important part loads.
If you have a simple web page with just a piece of text and a large image, that large image will be considered the LCP. Since this is the largest piece of content to load in the browser, it’s destined to make an impression. By getting that to load quicker, your site can appear much faster. So, sometimes, it might just be as simple as optimizing that image itself.
In the past, there were metrics like First Meaningful Content, which measured time when the first piece of content appeared on screen that meant something to the user. But, unlike the name suggests, the FMC metric often couldn’t figure out what was the most meaningful thing that appeared on screen. Complex metrics lead to useless data.
Largest Contentful Paint is easy to understand: it is simply the time it takes for the largest element to appear on the screen. These elements might include images, videos or other types of content.
What you need to know
Now you know what the LCP is you can start optimizing for it. According to Google, you should aim for the LCP to happen within the first 2.5 seconds of the page loading. Everything under 4 seconds needs improvement and you can consider everything over that as performing poorly.
The LCP is also dynamic, as the first thing that loads might not immediately be that large image. The LCP shifts to that large image when that appears on screen.
Here’s an image from Google that explains how the works:
On the left, you first see the logo and ‘Visual stories’ line appear. In the second screen, the large headline appears as a candidate for LCP. In the last screen, however, you see that big image overtakes the header as LCP. If you have just one big piece of content, that might be the LCP the whole time.
If you look at the loading process in the image, you can easily see why this is such a handy metric. You can easily spot what the LCP is and optimize the loading of that element.
Google offers several tools to help you find all these elements. PageSpeed Insights, for instance, offers a wealth of data on Web Vitals, plus a whole lot of advice to improve your page. If we run yoast.com on PageSpeed Insights, we get a number of scores and below that score, advice. In our case, the LCP was average and that’s due to it being a large image. In the screenshot below, you can see that PageSpeed Insights correctly identified that element. Now you now what to improve!
According to Google, the LCP is affected by a number of factors:
slow server response times: so optimize your server, use a CDN, cache assets, et cetera.
slow-loading resources: so optimize your images, preload resources, compress text files, et cetera.
The First Input Delay measure the time it takes for the browser to respond to the first interaction by the user. The faster the browser reacts, the more responsive the page will appear. If you are looking to offer your users a positive experience — who isn’t? —, then you should work on the responsiveness of your pages.
Delays happen when the browser is still doing other work in the background. So, it has loaded the page and everything looks dandy. But when you tap that button, nothing happens! That’s a bad experience and it leads to frustration. Even if there’s just a small delay it might make your site feel sluggish and unresponsive.
The FID measures all interaction that happen during the loading of the page. These are input actions like taps, clicks and keypresses, but not interactions like zooming and scrolling. Google’s new metrics call for an FID of less than 100ms to appear responsive. Anything between 100ms and 300ms needs improvement and you can view anything above that as performing poorly.
What you need to know
One of the things you need to remember is that you cannot measure the FID if there is no user interaction. This means that Google can’t simply predict the FID based on the data they have from the lab — they need data from real users, or so-called field data. This also means that this data is less controllable as lab data as it collects data from users will all kinds of devices and who uses in different ways and environments. This is one of the reasons why you sometimes see data change.
For instance, yoast.com has a pretty good score but it’s not perfect. There are still processes that prohibit us from getting perfect scores. Some of these are complicated to fix or we simply need this code for our site to function properly. You should look at your scores and determine what you can do. Try to find the improvements that are easiest to do or result in the biggest performance jumps.
The third Core Web Vital is a brand-new one: Content Layout Shift. This metric tries to determine how ‘stable’ stuff loads onto your screen. It looks at how often stuff jumps around while loading and by how much. You can imagine that sometimes a button loads on the screen, inviting users to click it. In the background, however, there’s still a large content area being loaded. The result? When the content finally fully loads, the button pushes down a bit — just as you want to hit that button. Again, frustration mounts!
These layout shifts happen a lot with ads. Now, ads are a lifeline for many sites, but these are often loaded so poorly that they frustrate users. In addition, many complex sites have so much going on that these are heavy to load and content gets loaded whenever it’s ready. This can also result in content or CTAs that jumps around on screen, making room for slower loading content.
Take CNN.com, for instance. News websites are typically very complex and slow to load, and CNN is no exception. It scores really badly on a PageSpeed Insights test. If you look at the issues and the corresponding tips further down the page, you’ll notice that no less than five moving elements were found at the time of writing. When loading this page, it leads to a lot of elements jumping around, and it takes a while for it to stabilize and be useful. And because users aren’t always that patient, they try to click a button at the moment it appears on screen — only to miss it because a big ad appears in that spot.
What you need to know
The Cumulative Layout Shift compares frames to determine the movement of elements. It takes all the points at which layout shifts happen and calculates the severity of those movements. Google considers anything below 0.1 good, while anything from 0.1 to 0.25 needs work. You can consider everything above 0.25 as poor.
Of course, the score only looks at unexpected shifts. If a user clicks the menu button and a fold-out menu appears, that doesn’t count as a layout shift. But if that button does call a big change in design, you should make sure to keep that clear for the user.
Developers don’t always specify the width and height of an image in the code and leaving it up to the browser to figure out how the image should appear on screen. On a page with some images and text, the text will appear on screen first, followed by the images. If the developer hasn’t reserved space for these images, the top part of the loading page will be filled with text, prompting the user to start reading. The images, however, load later and appear in the spot where the text was first. This pushes the text down, getting the user agitated. So, always specify the width and height of images in the CSS to reserve a spot for the images to load.
There are loads of tools to help you monitor Web Vitals and improve the performance of your site. I’ve mentioned a lot of them in the first Page experience post I wrote some time ago. You can see them listed there. Here, I’d like to highlight the most important ones:
PageSpeed Insights: PageSpeed Insights has turned into a full-service measuring tool with both field as well as lab data. In addition, you get advice on what to improve.
Lighthouse: Google built Lighthouse as a tool to audit PWAs, but now it’s a great tool to monitor performance. It has several audits that PageSpeed Insights doesn’t have and it even has some SEO checks.
Sometime in 2021, Google will update their algorithms to incorporate a new ranking factor: page experience. To measure page experience, Google developed a new set of metrics called the Web Vitals. Within these Web Vitals, you can find three core metrics: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Content Layout Shift. These stand for performance, responsiveness and visual stability — the three pillars of Google’s page experience update.
Keep focusing on your users and build an awesome site!
Sometimes, you have releases that start out small and end up with a substantial improvement. Yoast SEO 14.4 is one such release. Initially plannend as a bug fix release, this turned into something that markedly improves the publishing workflow in WordPress. Plus, you can now mark your external links as nofollow or sponsored. You see, Yoast SEO 14.4 is a chockfull release!
A new flow for your SEO-optimized content
Yoast SEO helps you optimize your content to make it awesome for readers as well as search engines. Over the years, Yoast SEO quickly turned into one of the most used writing tools in the world. We’re very proud of that, but we felt there were a couple steps missing from the publishing flow. Plus, we noticed people struggling to find our sidebar in the block editor. Our CTO, Omar Reiss, came up with the concept for improving this and built most of it himself — we even dubbed this The Omar Release internally. Thanks to him, we now have a flow that gives you more SEO insights throughout the publishing process.
One of the most important parts of Yoast SEO is the feedback you get from the SEO analysis and readability analysis. These tools make sure that your content is up to scratch. Now, we make sure that these scores are visible in a number of additional steps. In short, here are the three steps:
See how your content scores straight from the Document sidebar in the block editor.
Ready to publish? Get reassurance about the quality of your post and make adjustments if you’re not happy yet.
Done? Publish the post and immediately share it on Twitter and Facebook via our new sharing buttons.
Here’s how that looks:
By adding SEO scores to these steps, we give you a better handle on your content quality. This is very helpful — sometimes you just need a little positive feedback to hit that publish button!
CTO Omar Reiss on the publishing flow
Did you know we have a sidebar in the WordPress block editor? No? Well, you’re not alone. Omar Reiss, had this to say on that topic: “We’ve noticed for a while that users new to the block editor have trouble finding our sidebar. In the Classic Editor, we’ve always been visible in the publishing screen, but for the block editor, we made an entire sidebar for Yoast SEO. To reach this, you needed to click the big Y logo on the top of the screen. In Yoast SEO 14.4, we’re making it much easier to find by integrating it in the Document sidebar. Now, you immediately see the familiar bullets once you open a post.”
We’re not just making Yoast SEO easier to find, but we’re also guiding people more. Omar: “SEO is crucial in the content publication process. We believe in holistic SEO and SEO plays a part in every step of the process. I’m happy that we can help people remember to work on that. Every post benefits from looking at it with an eye for SEO and the publication flow helps you do that. In addition, that final check makes sure that you can publish you content without hesitation!”
Omar didn’t just came up with the idea of these improvements, but he also built them himself. Omar explains: “I’ve been getting back into programming and for this project I had the chance to work with a couple of interesting Gutenberg APIs. These helped me to get everything going pretty quickly. I have to say, from an extensibility perspective, Gutenberg is maturing quickly! Soon, I’ll publish a blog post about my experiences with these Gutenberg APIs.”
Mark outgoing links with nofollow/sponsored
The second addition is an easy way to block search engines from following outgoing links by setting them as nofollow or even sponsored. It has always been a good idea to mark external links as nofollow — especially if these lead to pages you don’t really endorse. In addition, you can use these signal that these links might have been commercial and you don’t want search engines to follow these.
Recently, Google announced a new way to mark commercial links as such: sponsored. It is not mandatory to mark links you paid for with this new attribute, but it helps Google get a better sense of what happens with links on the web.
In the WordPress block editor, you can now easily mark links as nofollow. In addition, you can also mark these as sponsored in Yoast SEO 14.4. When you mark a link as sponsored, it automatically also applies a nofollow to that link. This is according to Google’s guidelines.
You can see third new feature as part of the publishing flow mentioned above, but I’d still like to highlight it separately. In Yoast SEO 14.4, we made it much easier to share your freshly published post on social media like Twitter and Facebook. After you’ve hit Publish, you will be greeted with a new Share your post setting. Simply click the Facebook or Twitter icon to publish your new masterpiece to the corresponding platform.
Yoast SEO 14.4: More SEO insights
That’s Yoast SEO 14.4 for you! This release comes with a better workflow for publishing SEO-proof articles, including a new way to share your content on social media. In addition, we made it a lot easier for you to discourage search engines from following external links.
Two words you often hear together are mobile and site speed. And that’s not without reason because these two go hand in hand. Mobile-friendliness and site speed are some of the most pressing matters we have to deal with. Measuring page speed has always been something of a dark art. The site speed tools we use today are fairly adequate, but with the new Web Vitals metrics Google is trying to come at it from a different, more realistic angle, taking page experience into account. Here, I’ll take a closer look at how to check your mobile site speed and SEO with Google Lighthouse.
Lighthouse is a page experience tool built by Google and was initially meant to audit Progressive Web Apps (PWA). The tool executes five audits for accessibility, performance, SEO, Progressive Web Apps and an extended list of best practices. Powered by the new Core Web Vitals, these audits together give you an excellent overview of the quality and performance of your mobile website as well as your desktop site, or web app.
Site speed is all about perception and user experience. Speed in numbers means nothing if your site still feels slow. Loads of users around the world are on rather crappy mobile connections of 3G or less. Even with lightning-fast 5G connections, a site can simply feel laggy and slow. And we all know what a devastating effect a slow site can have on your conversion. Shaving milliseconds of the time needed to load your site could make a world of difference. Not to mention the frustration that happens when a slow-loading ad pushes down the button you just wanted to click.
While testing, Google Lighthouse simulates visiting your mobile site via a flaky 3G connection on a slightly underpowered device. Packets are lost in an attempt to simulate real-world conditions as authentically as possible. These insights are combined with other data. After running the test, you’ll get a report with a score and actionable advice with issues to tackle.
PageSpeed Insights vs. Google Lighthouse
PageSpeed Insights is probably the most used site speed analysis tool out there. It gives you a nice score and a list of possible improvements, plus it gives you an idea of the perceived loading speed of your site. Also, PageSpeed Insights gives recommendations and identifies opportunities to improve the performance of your page. Some of these do tend to be hard implement, so getting a 100/100 is a pipe dream for most sites.
PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse used to be two different tools for the job. They both provided valuable insights, but were hard to combine. With the advent of Web Vitals and the page experience update, Google improved the metrics across the board. Not only did they become easier to understand, they were also shared metrics. Of course, each tool is made for a specific subtask and offers specific metrics. These metrics come from different environments.
Field data vs. lab data
Web Vitals introduced new ways of determining performance. Some of these metrics can be calculated in a lab setting — simulated, so to say, while other metric only make sense if their are tested and collected in the field. In addition, some metrics work well in both settings. Google page experience tools use a variety of the metrics to provide you with the data you need to improve your site.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that some metrics only work in lab tools like the Developer Tools and Lighthouse. The field metrics appear in tools like the Web Vitals report in Search Console and PageSpeed Insights. The Core Web Vitals like LCP, FID and CLS will work everywhere.
Core Web Vitals
The brand-new Core Web Vitals will appear in all Google tools that measure site speed, performance and experience — even in the new Web Vitals report in Search Console. Now, you simply have to understand three basic metrics to get a sense of how your site or specific pages are performing. These Core Web Vitals are:
These new Web Vitals take a much more practical approach and put user experience front and center. The tools visit your site over a throttled connection on an average device so it can emulate what a real visitor in the real world might experience. Instead of just loading your site like the classic speed tools used to do, these Web Vitals-powered tools check how and when it responds to input — and if stuff happens after the initial load. It finds the exact moment when your content is ready to use, so you can try and optimize that when it feels too slow. Plus, you can find annoyances that hinder a good page experience.
Also, keep in mind that Lighthouse not only measures performance, but also checks SEO, various best practices and accessibility. It is a complete tool that helps you improve your site holistically.
What to look for in Lighthouse results
The whole concept of speeding up your mobile site is two-pronged; your site must be fast, and it must feel fast. You, therefore, need to get your content on screen as fast as possible. Don’t let people wait. Also, users must be able to interact with your content as soon as possible. Since Google announced that page speed and page experience are ranking factors for SEO, you need to fix these issues.
What should your priority be? Load your content first. Awesome graphics and killer animations can wait. Your message – and what people are looking for – is most likely in the content. You can load the rest of the content in the background and ease it on the screen later on.
Performance metrics used by Lighthouse 6.0
While measuring the performance of your site, Lighthouse 6.0 uses the following metrics:
First Contentful Paint: FCP measures how long it takes the browser to render the first piece of DOM content after a user navigates to your page. This includes, images, non-white <canvas> elements, and SVGs but excludes stuff inside an iframe.
Speed Index: The Speed Index measures how quickly content is visually displayed during page load.
Largest Contentful Paint: The LCP is all about how long it takes for the largest content object (for instance, an image or a block of text) to load. This is one of the most important new metrics. Here, having a good score means users perceive your site as loading quickly.
Time to Interactive: TTI measures the time it takes from loading the page to when it is capable of reliably responding to user input quickly. The page might look quick to load, only to find that pushing some buttons doesn’t do anything yet.
Total Blocking Time: The TBT measures the time between the FCP and TTI where blockades can happen, preventing responsiveness.
Cumulative Layout Shift: The CLS looks at the number of layout shifts that happen during the full loading process of the page. Every time an element jumps around on the screen from frame to frame, this counts as a layout shift. Remember those nasty ads that load at the last moment?
You can see how your score is calculated by going to the Lighthouse Scoring Calculator:
The Lighthouse report also features some opportunities to improve the site speed of your mobile site, including how much loading time they will save. These include reducing render-blocking stylesheets, render-blocking scripts, properly sizing images and fixing offscreen images.
All in all, Lighthouse gives you a tremendous amount of insight into the performance of your page. Use these insights to your advantage.
The Lighthouse SEO check
Lighthouse doesn’t do just performance, it also has an accessibility test, suggestions on improving your site based on best practices and a PWA analysis. Another cool Lighthouse features is the basic SEO check. With this check, you can run a simple SEO audit to uncover basic SEO issues a site may have. It gives you suggestions to fix them as well. Since Lighthouse runs locally in your browser, you can run the checks on your staging environment as well.
Are there any unwanted plugins like Java or Flash?
Although basic, the Lighthouse checks will alert you of any SEO problems to fix.
How to install Google Lighthouse
Getting started with Google Lighthouse is very easy as it is built into Chrome’s Developer Tools Audit panel (Mac: Shift+Cmd+I. Win: Ctrl+Shift+J or F12). From there, you can run the test and get the full report. In addition, there is a separate Chrome add-on for Lighthouse that adds a button to your toolbar, though using it stays the same with a few restrictions : you can’t validate sites on your local server and authenticated pages also won’t work.
You can also run Lighthouse as a Node package. This way, you can incorporate the test into your build process. When using the Node package, you will also see that there are a couple of audits that only work in a Node environment and not in the Audits panel of the DevTools.
To install Lighthouse globally from the command line use:
npm install -g lighthouse
If you want to run a test for https://example.com use:
The full results of the audit will be available in the terminal, but also in a separate HTML file.
Testing Yoast.com in Lighthouse
It’s time to put Lighthouse through its paces. Let’s see what happens when I shine the spotlight of the lighthouse on yoast.com — as seen by a mobile browser. Today, we’re only focussing on the Performance tab. This tab shows how your site or app performs currently and shows you ways to improve it.
In the screenshot below, you can see the results for yoast.com. The initial loading of the mobile site is visualized by a number of screenshots showing when the content first appears onscreen. The metrics show how long it takes for the content to become visible. The faster, the better.
In the metrics section, you’ll find the most important information, with a green, orange or red dot to show how good the performance is. When you want to optimize the performance of your mobile site, you need to watch the figures for first contentful paint, largest contentful paint and time to interactive, as mentioned earlier. Also, try to improve the speed index and make sure that nothing jumps around on screen.
Google Lighthouse isn’t the one site speed tool to rule them all, but it is a very valuable addition to your toolkit. The SEO checks are basic, but welcome nonetheless. Lighthouse is more fine-grained and gives you immediate feedback based on real-world usage. You should definitely use it along with your other page speed test tools, like PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest and GTmetrix.
Are you using Google Lighthouse? How do you find it? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments. I would love to hear from you!
The biggest eye-catcher in Yoast SEO 14.3 is word form support for the Italian language in the Premium analysis. This makes it language number seven to make use of this awesome feature. Find out all about it! Plus, Yoast SEO 14.3 comes with improved French word form support and a number of bug fixes.
Another language gets word form support
Over the past months, we’ve been quickly expanding our line-up of languages that support the word form feature in Yoast SEO Premium. For the first four languages — English, German, Dutch and Spanish —, we custom developed the word recognition functionality. This takes a lot of time and effort to get this right for every language.
As of Yoast SEO 14.1, we’re adding languages at an earlier stage and asking our users for feedback to build upon and improve. This way, you can already use the word form recognition features, while we continually make it better.
In Yoast SEO 14.3, we’re adding another language: this time it’s Italian! Again, this is a beta release and we’d like you to help us improve it. Now, we can find and recognize word forms in Italian much better than before, but not as good as the other languages we’ve implemented. That might mean that we don’t recognize every word correctly or that you’re noticing false-positives. If you find that happens, let us know!
Yoast SEO Premium: Word form support for Italian
As of today, Italian language users can use Yoast SEO Premium in 14.3 to get a more flexible, natural writing and editing environment. Besides, the possibility to optimize your text with synonyms and related keyphrases should not be understated. All these tools are fine-tuned to help you build the best possible content, without having to think about awkwardly fitting in keywords to get green bullets.
The last couple of languages we’ve added word form support form received a beta status. For these releases, we’ll allow users to provide feedback to signal improvements. Once again, we’d like to ask Yoast SEO Premium users in the French, Italian and Russian languages to send us your findings. Together, we make word form support an even better tool for everyone!
If you use Yoast SEO Premium in French, Italian or Russian, you can see the new feedback option just below the focus keyphrase field. Simply click the link, and fill in the fields in the popup. We’re asking you to supply us with the following:
The focus keyphrase you’ve used for this specific piece of text.
The sentence in which you’ve noticed one of the assessments working incorrectly for the focus keyphrase you mentioned above.
That’s all! We’ll make sure to put your feedback to good use. It’ll help us improve your language. Here’s what that feedback option looks like:
Improved French word forms
The first language for which we released word forms in beta, was French. We’ve received a bunch of feedback for this and — combined with our own research and enhancements —, we made a number of improvements. In Yoast SEO Premium 14.3, we can more easily:
recognize keywords in words ending in -is/us/os.
recognize keyphrases containing words ending in “ent” in the text.
recognize word forms in short French words (e.g. ours – our; âmes – âme).
Thanks to everyone who sent us feedback and keep it coming!
Bug fixes and code improvements
In every release of Yoast SEO, we fix bugs and find other ways to enhance our code. For instance, we’re always working on quality assurance, code styling and other behind the scenes work. In addition, we fix bugs because they often need fixing. Sometimes they can be as small making sure the itemlist in our FAQ schema output now correctly counts up from one. Find the complete list of changes in the changelog.
Yoast SEO 14.3: get it now!
One of our main goals is to steadily improve language support in Yoast SEO. Over a number of releases, we added word form recognition support for Italian, Russian and French, with more to come.
A couple of weeks ago, Google announced Web Vitals — a new set of metrics to measure the speed and user experience of websites. Last week, Google announced that these metrics will make its way into a core algorithm update as new ways of judging and ranking sites based on the page experience they offer. This update is due to arrive some time in 2021.
UX matters, for real now
In 2010, Google announced that it would take site speed into account while determining rankings. In 2018, Google followed up with the page speed ranking factor in the mobile search results. Now, Google announces a new update that looks at a variety of new or updated metrics — combined with other user experience factors, to form the page experience update.
For years, optimizing the performance of websites mostly meant optimizing for speed. But loading times are only part of the equation and the other part is harder to define and measure. This is about how a user experiences all those optimizations. The site might be fast according to the metrics, but does it feel fast? Thus, it’s high time to take a drastic look at page experience.
According to Google, “Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page.”
Enter Web Vitals
Early May 2020, Google announced Web Vitals — a thoroughly researched set of metrics to help anyone determine opportunities to improve the experience of their sites. Within those new metrics, there is a subset of metrics every site owner should focus on, the so-called Core Web Vitals. According to Google, “Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.”
Each Core Web Vital looks at a specific piece of the page experience puzzle and together they help both Google and yourself make sense of the perceived experience of a site. Core Web Vitals are available in all Google tools that measure the page experience.
The Core Web Vitals will evolve over time and new ones might be added in due time. For 2020, Google identified three specific focal points:
These focal points correspond with three new metrics:
As you see, these core metrics don’t simply look at how fast something loads. They also look at how long it takes for elements to become ready to use. The Cumulative Layout Shift is the most forward-thinking of the bunch. This has nothing to do with speed, but everything with preventing a bad user experience — like hitting a wrong button, because an ad loaded at the final moment. Think about how you feel when that happens? Pretty infuriating, right?
Combining new metrics with existing ranking factors
The launch of Web Vitals was noteworthy on its own, but Google took it up a notch this week. Google is going to use these new metrics — combined with existing experience ranking factors, to help with ranking a pages. Keep in mind, Google uses an unknown number of factors to judge sites and rank them. Some factors weigh a lot, but most have a smaller impact. Combined, however, they tell the story of a website.
The new Web Vitals join several existing factors to make up the page experience ranking factors:
Interstitial use: does your site stay away from nasty pop-ups?
Safe browsing: is your site harmless for visitors?
These are now joined by real-world, user-centred metrics, like the LCP, FID and CLS mentioned earlier. Combined, these factors take into account everything a user experiences on a website to try to come up with a holistic picture of the performance of your site, as Google likes to say.
Of course, this is just another way for Google to get a sense of how good your site is and it might be easy to overstate the importance of this particular update. It’s still going to be impossible to rank a site with a great user experience but crappy content.
While the quality of your content still rains supreme in getting good rankings, the performance and perceived experience users have now also come into play. With these metrics, Google has found a way to get a whole lot of insights that look at your site from all angles.
Our own Jono Alderson and Joost de Valk talked about the recent news in the latest instalment of SEO News, part of the premium content in our Yoast SEO academy subscription. Sign up and be sure to check that out.
Google page experience update in 2021
Google has often been accused of not communicating with SEOs and site owners. In the past, we have seen many core algorithm update happen without a word from a Googler. Today, however, Google appears more upfront than ever. In the case of the page experience update, Google warns us twice: one with the announcement of the page experience ranking factors and once six months in advance of rolling out the update in 2021.
By announcing this way ahead of time, Google gives site owners, SEOs and developers ample time to prepare for this update. There are loads of new tools to come to grips with how these metrics function and how you can improve your site using these insights. There’s a lot of new documentation to sift through. And you can start right now. Sometime next year, Google will give you a heads up that the update will be rolling out in six months time.
No more AMP requirements for Top Stories
You can find another interesting tidbit regarding the page experience update. Google will no longer require AMP for getting your news pages in the Top Stories section. Now, any well-built, Google News-validated site can aim for that top spot. Page experience will become a ranking factor for Top Stories, so your site better be good.
New page experience tools? You got it!
Google went all out for to get every site owner to adapt to the page experience changes. New or updated tools help you get the insights you need. They also help you to make sense of what it all means.
In the past, optimizing your site for user experience and speed was a bit like flying blind — you never had truly good insights into what makes a site fast and what makes one feel fast. Over the years, Google saw the need for good metrics and heard the cries of users in need of usable, safe and fast sites. By announcing these metrics — and by announcing them as ranking factors —, Google makes page experience measurable and deems it helpful enough to judge sites by.
Remember, the update won’t roll out until sometime in 2021, but the tools are there, so you can start testing and improving. Good luck!
Our linguists are busy bees lately. Over the last couple of releases, we’ve launched word form support for Yoast SEO Premium users writing in Spanish and French. These languages follow the languages that already had word form support: English, German and Dutch. In Yoast SEO 14.2, we’re adding yet another language: Russian! And, once again, this is a beta release and we’d like to ask you to help us improve it.
Russian word forms, now in beta
High-quality content is essential for getting your site noticed by readers and search engines alike. Making your content awesome can be hard, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-optimizing your articles by using your focus keyphrase over and over again. Writing like this leads to content that’s hard to read. Since adding our readability analysis, Yoast SEO helps you to circumvent these problems and improve your writing. Yoast SEO Premium takes that to another level and enables you to turn into a lean, mean writing machine.
The Premium analysis makes the writing process much more natural. It’s flexible and smart, helping you improve your articles without having to go to great lengths to fit in your focus keyphrases awkwardly. As of 14.2, Yoast SEO Premium is much better at finding your focus keyphrases in Russian, even if the words are in a different grammatical form — and spread across a sentence. Of course, this is a beta release, so there might be instances where Yoast SEO doesn’t correctly find a word. If you encounter this — or if you have any suggestions for improvements — please contact us.
The Yoast SEO Premium analysis also comes with support for synonyms and related keyphrases. Using synonyms in your text makes the content come alive and reduces the need for repetition of your main focus keyphrase. By also adding related keyphrases, you can paint a complete picture of your subject, making the text rich and authoritative.
Yoast employs several Russian colleagues. One of them works on the team that develops the language part of the plugin, so we thought it would be awesome if she introduces the Russian word forms feature for our Russian audience.
As a reminder, we’d like to ask you once again to help us improve word form support for new languages. The launch of Russian word forms — like the release of French in Yoast SEO 14.1 — consists of a beta version that we’re improving and expanding as we go. We use this first release to get Russian up and running. Now, we can find and recognize word forms in Russian much better than before, but not as good as the other languages we’ve implemented. That might mean that we don’t recognize every word correctly or that you’re noticing false-positives. If you find things like this, we’d like to know!
To help us collect your insights and experiences, we’re working on a unique language feedback system inside the plugin. That’s not done yet, so until then, you can send us your improvements via email.
While sending us your feedback, please include the following:
The focus keyphrase you’ve used for this specific piece of text.
The sentence in which you’ve noticed one of the assessments working incorrectly for the focus keyphrase you mentioned above.
Our team of linguists will do the rest. Thanks for your help!
Improvements in Yoast SEO 14.2
Among other things, we’ve fixed several issues with breadcrumbs. One of these bugs turned the order of breadcrumbs on its head, which is not something we like. Things should work as expected now. We’ve also changed how we check if a focus keyphrase was used before. We currently run this against our indexable table, making the process more efficient.
Update now to Yoast SEO 14.2
We’ve added a new language to Yoast SEO Premium: Russian. Now, those writing in the Russian language can enjoy a more flexible, natural way of improving their posts. We have many more languages coming up! Remember, if you have feedback on these beta language releases, please let us know. We want to make everything work flawlessly, so we need your help.
Google has loads of interesting free tools, but two important ones for helping you improve your site are Search Console and the Rich Results Testing Tool. Search Console helps you get a general feel for how your site is doing in the SERPs, plus to keep an eye on any errors to fix and improvements to make. The other one, the Rich Results Testing Tool, helps you see which of your pages are eligible for rich results. Rich results are those highlighted search results like FAQ listings and event listings.
What can you do with this tool?
Rich results are incredibly important in today’s world. Once you add structured data to your site, you get a chance of a highlighted listing in the SERPs. This gives you an edge over your competitor as these tend to get more clicks. For many sites and types of content, it can make sense to target rich results.
Here, we’d rather take a look at how to verify your eligibility and what you can do to improve on that. Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool helps you check your pages to see if they have valid structured data applied to it and if they might be eligible for rich results. Not only that, but you’ll also find which rich results the page is eligible for and get a preview of how these would look for your content.
How to use it the Rich Results Testing Tool?
Using the Rich Results Testing Tool is very easy. There are two ways to get your insights: enter the URL of the page you want to test or enter the piece of code you want to test. The second option can be a piece of structured data or the full source code of a page, whichever you prefer.
While testing, you can also choose between a smartphone and a desktop crawler. Google defaults to the smartphone crawler, since we’re living in a mobile-first indexing world, people! Of course, you can switch to desktop if needed.
There is a difference, of course. It is a good idea to use the URL option if your page is already online. You’ll see if the page is eligible for rich results, view a preview of these rich results, and check out the rendered HTML of the page. But there’s nothing you can ‘do’ in the code. The code option does let you do that.
Working with structured data code
If you paste a piece of JSON structured data into the code field and run the test, you get the same results as the URL option. However, you can now also use the code input field to edit your code to fix errors or improve the structured data by fixing warnings.
If it’s minified, unminify it for better readability
Paste the code in the code field of the Rich Results Testing Tool
Run the test
You’ll get a view similar to the one below.
Editing an event page
The page you see above is an event page and you’ll notice a warning in orange. Now, remember: red is an error and orange a warning. An error you have to fix to be valid, but a warning is a possible improvement to make. Because this concerns a free event, the page misses an offers property. I could, however, add one to make the warning disappear and round out this structured data listing.
Take a look at Google’s documentation about events and find out how they’d like the offers to appear in the code. To keep it simple, you could copy the example code and adapt this to your needs. Find out a good place for it in your structured data on the left-hand side of your Rich Results Testing Tool screen and paste the code.
Run the test again and it should all turn green. If not, you might have to check if you’ve correctly applied and closed your code.
Once you’ve validated your code and you know it’s working, you can apply it on your own pages. Keep in mind, I’ve described a very simple way of validating your code and there are other ways to scale this into production. But that’s not the goal of this article. Here, I’d like to offer you a quick insight into structured data and what you can do with the Rich Results Testing Tool.
See a preview of your rich results
One of the coolest things in the Rich Results Testing Tool is the preview option. This gives you an idea of how that particular page or article will appear on Google. There’s a number of rich results that you can test, like breadcrumbs, FAQs, job postings, recipes, and many more.
For some, like the how-to, Google even shows multiple previews. There are two different mobile how-to rich results, plus a preview of how that how-to would look on a screen-based Google Assistant. Cool right?
These previews aren’t just to show off — you can use the previews to improve the look of the rich results. In the case of the how-to, maybe the images look weird or some steps are unclear or maybe the title is not very attractive. Use these insights to your advantage and try to get people to click your listings!
Introducing the Rich Results Testing Tool
This was a short overview of what you can see and do in the Rich Results Testing Tool. Don’t forget, if everything is green in the Rich Results Testing Tool and there are no errors to be found, your content is eligible for rich results. This does not — I repeat —, this does not guarantee Google will show rich results for this page. You’ll just have to wait and see.