Yoast SEO 14.6: New languages with word form support

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.

You can send us your feedback if you find Yoast SEO doesn’t properly recognize keyphrases

Improving editing

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.

Instantly see the scores for the post you’re working on by looking at the Yoast SEO icon

Languages improvements

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.

We hope you enjoy Yoast SEO.

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What is a landing page? And how does it work?

As simple as they sound, landing pages might be a confusing topic for site owners. What qualifies as a landing page and what doesn’t? Is every page you land on a landing page? What about Landing Pages in Google analytics? And, can you optimize them for conversion and search engines? Let’s dive in!

What is a landing page?

In digital marketing, a landing page is a page specifically designed for one purpose: to make a visitor convert. Whether it’s signing up for an event, subscribing to a newsletter, or donating money to a charity; a landing page aims to do just that. Therefore it’s completely focused on a single action. The idea is that this focus and taking away possible distractions increase the chance of a conversion. Marketers typically create these types of pages as part of a marketing campaign.

An example

A nice example of a focused landing page for a campaign is this Red Nose Day landing page of Comic Relief:

The Red Nose Day landing page on the Comic Relief website

The headline immediately conveys the message of this page: Register your school for Red Nose Day 2021. The text on the call-to-action is crystal-clear too. Perhaps a different color would make it stand out a bit more, but still, it’s hard to miss. The page is focused as a result of its clean design and the absence of distractive elements. Moreover, if I’d work at a school the image of the happy little girl would make me want to participate right away.

This screenshot shows what you see above the fold on the desktop version of this site. If you scroll down you’ll find some other elements, like options to donate money or links to explanations where the money goes. You could think of these secondary buttons as distractions, but because they only appear when you scroll down, the first view of the page remains focused on its primary goal: getting schools to register for this event.

How do landing pages work?

Imagine getting an email from a local venue announcing a concert of your favorite band. Woohoo, you’re super excited to get tickets! You click on a link and end up on the homepage of the venue. You start looking for the schedule. When was it again? Maybe better use the search bar? O wait, a banner showing another awesome concert too. Hmmm…Maybe first discuss with your friends which band they’d like to go to?

The internet is full of distractions and landing pages of a marketing campaign try to get rid of all these distractions. In the above example, if you would have ended up on a page purely focused on this concert, providing the necessary details and an eye-catching call-to-action leading to the cart you probably would have purchased the tickets already.

If people click on a campaign link in your newsletter or social media post, you’ve already somehow sparked their interest in your event, charity or, whatever you’re promoting. As they’ve been exposed to the content they’ve clicked on, they probably already have a bit of context on the topic. That’s why they’re likely to be further in a user journey as someone landing on your site from an informational search query in Google. This means chances of conversion (subscribing, getting tickets, or buying something) are higher. So it does make sense to focus on the action of the user. Now you just have to make sure to make this action as easy as possible!

How to optimize them?

When you create a landing page for marketing purposes you first have to decide what you’d want people to do on that page. This shouldn’t be too hard if you have a clear goal for your campaign. In the example above, that would be selling tickets for that concert. If you know your goal, you can start optimizing the page for the target group and add all essential elements that should be on the page.

Essential elements: Inform and convince

Obviously, you should tailor a landing page to give your users what they need and convince them to participate at the same time. Therefore it’s indispensable you know your audience. Nevertheless, some elements are so common you can find them on almost every great landing page. We’ve listed them here for you:

  • a headline that conveys the message: what should the user do here?
  • a call-to-action (CTA) or a short form people can fill in right away
  • some essential details the user would want to know before clicking the CTA
  • visuals: an appealing image or short video (let’s say if you can win a state of the art coffee machine it makes sense to show it)
  • social proof (a quote of a happy user or participant, for instance)
  • in case of a purchase or donation: payment options

Remember: Keep it short and simple! To add more focus to your page you can even get rid of the menu, as it might lead people away from your page. Also, go easy on the links to other pages; they can do the same. If you do need to add links to other pages, consider adding them below the fold. The same counts for any secondary actions, like the donation button on the Red Nose Day page.

Also, don’t forget to test the page. If you build a landing page you’ve likely made some assumptions about what you’re audience needs/wants. Especially with these kinds of pages, focused on conversion, it pays off to A/B test them thoroughly! And, when you’ve built that one awesome landing page, be sure to clone it with the Yoast Duplicate Post plugin and use it as a template for your other landing pages.

Here you’ll find more tips on optimizing your landing pages.

What about Landing Pages in Google Analytics?

Landing pages of a marketing campaign are not to be confused with Landing Pages in Google Analytics. Landing Pages in Google Analytics are just a list of pages on your site that get the most traffic from external sources.

You’ll find Landing Pages in Google Analytics in the Behaviour tab

While a popular marketing landing page as mentioned above could be in this list, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. For instance, in our case, our post on choosing a focus keyword is one of our top Landing Pages in Google Analytics. But it wouldn’t fit the above the description of a landing page. It’s an explainer post helping people with setting the right focus keyphrase on a post they’re writing. It’s an informative post, not aimed at convincing people to sign up for something. People land on this page as they’d like to learn something or need help. Bombarding them with buttons would probably scare them away.

If some of your campaign’s landing pages are in this list, this post on the power of Landing Pages in GA will help you to analyze their performance though!

Landing pages and SEO

Do you want your landing page to rank? I can hear you say: Yes, of course! I want to get as many users as possible on this slick landing page I’ve created and tested! But, don’t forget that a page specifically designed for a campaign which mostly gets visitors from newsletters and social media, might not always be the best fit for searchers in Google.

You’ll have to ask yourself, is this the page people want to find when they’re searching for something? Or, would they like a more extensive article on the topic they’re interested in? Are they ready for subscribing or buying? Or do they have a different search intent? Where are those people in the user journey? As you’ve designed this page to convert, it might not be the best fit, apart from people actually searching for your event, contest, or campaign.

Of course, you can make sure the page is optimized for the exact term of the event. For other terms, it might be harder to rank with a page that is mostly focused on conversion and probably doesn’t have a lot of copy. Placing enough internal links to this page might as well help it rank for the exact term. If you do want to add content to the page, maybe even with links to more information on your site, you can best add it below the fold, as it might prevent people from converting. But again, ask yourself: what exactly is your goal of this page? It might be better to optimize it for one goal only!

Product pages vs. landing pages

One last thing: there’s a lot of overlap between product and landing pages. Some principles definitely apply to both: Both pages should be focused on conversion, with a clear headline, call-to-action, social proof, and probably a nice image or video. But a campaign often has a more temporary character. Also, your product page probably shows more details and maybe even a related products section, making it slightly less focused than a marketing campaign’s landing page. And of course, you’d definitely like your product page (or category page) to rank! If you want to dive into optimizing your product page, go read our post on Product page UX and Product page SEO.

Conclusion

In digital marketing, a landing page is a page designed to trigger a specific action of the user. It’s often created as part of a campaign and aimed at conversion: the page should convince the visitor to subscribe, participate or buy something. Therefore it’s very focused. It’s not to be confused with Landing pages in Google Analytics, which is a list of pages people land on from external sources. Depending on the goal of the page you can try to optimize the page for search engines too, but sometimes it’s better to keep it solely focused on conversion. Whatever you do, think about the goal of your page first!

Good luck with your landing pages. And feel free to drop your questions in the comments.

Read more: How to optimize your landing page »

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5 ways to boost your Core Web vitals

“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.

Table of contents

First, a disclaimer

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 Web.dev/measure tool gives you an idea of the impact a fix can have

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:

Five things you or your developer can do

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

When the browser loads a page, it has to get the HTML, render it, get the CSS, render it, get the JavaScript, render it, et cetera, et cetera. The more files you need to load your site and the bigger these are, the slower your site will load. Often, while the browser is busy doing stuff, it can’t load things in the background. Certain elements block the process. So-called render-blocking JavaScript and CSS influences everything.

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.

To get a set of critical CSS, you can choose from a number of tools or you can do it by hand. In addition, you can use WordPress caching plugins like WP Rocket. WP Rocket has a simple button called Optimize CSS delivery. Activating this helps eliminate render-blocking CSS and enhance the loading of your site. Of course, WP Rocket also does other cool stuff like minifying CSS and JavaScript and deferring the loading of JavaScript.

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.

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5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing

As you might know, Google is rolling out mobile-first indexing as we speak. In September 2020, all websites will be ported over to the mobile-first index. But what does that mean for your ranking? Should you be worried? Should you do anything? Google has been pretty vocal on mobile-first indexing. This post serves as a reminder so, I’ll talk you through five things you need to know about mobile-first indexing.

Mobile-first indexing

In March 2018, Google announced that they were going to start with mobile-first indexing. In March 2020, Google announced that it would roll out mobile-first indexing for the whole web. This will happen in September 2020. But what does that entail? It means that from now on, Google will base what it places in the index on the mobile version of your site, whereas they used to index the desktop version of your site first.

This switch is made because more and more searches come from a mobile device and to give those users a better experience, Google decided that it was time to prioritize mobile results. It is important to note that the mobile-first index is not a separate index, Google has only one index from which it serves the results.

1. Do not panic!

From September, the mobile version of every site will be indexed. But that does not mean that anything big is happening. In fact, it probably doesn’t do anything to your rankings. If Google indexes the mobile version of your site, you’ll get a notice in your Google Search Console. This means that Google will determine by the content available on your mobile site how you will rank — both on the desktop as well as on mobile. This sounds pretty big, but for most WordPress sites it’ll have minimal consequences. If you think about it, most WordPress sites have a responsive design. This means that both mobile and desktop display the same content. You’ll have nothing to worry about in this case.

If you have different websites for mobile and desktop and your mobile website has far less content – you do have something to worry about. Everything you are offering on your desktop site should be available on your mobile site — this is called mobile parity. This also includes your structured data and any meta data like titles, descriptions and robots meta tags.

If you’re looking to also improve the speed of your site and the user experience, it might be good to look into the upcoming page experience update by Google as well. Mobile-friendliness is one of the signals that informs the page experience algorithm.

2. Do a mobile-friendliness test

You do not have to have a mobile site to be in the mobile-first index, as Google will index desktop sites as well. But, it’s going to be harder to rank if your site is not mobile-friendly. So there’s work to do for all of you who have not have a mobile-friendly site yet.

Check how Google sees your mobile page

So what do you need to do? Check out Google’s mobile-friendliness test and check whether or not your site is mobile friendly. In our experience, this is a minimum requirement. If your site does not pass this test, your mobile version is not up to scratch. Read our Mobile SEO ultimate guide to learn how to improve your mobile site. Also, be sure to read Google’s documentation on how to get your site ready for mobile-first indexing.

3. Think about UX on mobile

A mobile website needs a different design than a desktop version to appeal to your audience. Your screen is tiny. While it might make sense to discard a lot of content on mobile due to space limitations, that wouldn’t be a good practice.

Of course, you can improve the mobile user experience by following best practices. For instance, Google explained that hamburger or accordion menus are perfectly fine to use. These kinds of menus make sense; they help a mobile user to browse through your website. Putting content behind a tab to make the mobile experience better is also totally fine.

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

4. Write mobile-friendly

Reading from a screen is hard. And reading from a mobile screen is even harder than reading from a big screen. To attract a mobile audience, you’ll need to have mobile-friendly copy. This means short sentences and compact paragraphs. You need to make sure your font on your mobile site is large and clear enough, and you need to make sure to use enough whitespaces.

Keep reading: Copywriting for mobile »

5. Check out those mobile snippets

Is your audience mainly mobile? Do they come from the mobile search results to your page? Or does most of your organic traffic come from the desktop SERPs? Make sure to check this in your Google Analytics.

If your search traffic is mostly from mobile search result pages, make sure to optimize your mobile snippet in our Google preview.

Check your mobile snippets in the Yoast SEO Google preview

Conclusion on mobile-first indexing

Don’t panic about the mobile-first index Google will fully roll out in September 2020. If your website has a responsive design, your content will be similar on both desktop and mobile versions. Please check if that’s the case. If so, the mobile-first indexing will have little consequences for your ranking.

Do take some time to evaluate the mobile version of your website. Is your design good enough? Or could you improve? Are the buttons large enough to tap? What about your content? Could you make your text more readable for a mobile audience? Making sure your website has a kick-ass mobile experience is something you need to get started on. This will make a difference in your rankings shortly.

Read on: How to improve your mobile site »

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The latest news in SEO and WordPress: July 2020

Every few weeks we have an SEO News video in which Jono Alderson and I, along with other experts, share the latest SEO news with our academy subscribers. Last week, we decided to try this in the form of a webinar where viewers were able to ask us questions right away. Because this was such a success, we’re already planning our next webinar. In this blog post, I’ll discuss the highlights of our July 2020 webinar to give you an idea of what’s new in the world of SEO!

Stay on top of the latest changes in SEO by getting a Yoast SEO academy training subscription. This also gives you the opportunity to watch earlier videos of SEO News and develop vital SEO skills by completing a variety of courses.

What’s new with Google and Bing?

Our friends at Google and Bing have not been sitting idly by, so we had lots of news to share. Here, I’ll give you a few highlights of what we discussed.

Scroll to text

Google has been testing it on AMP for quite a while, and now it’s probably here to stay: scroll to text. So, what is it? When someone does a search on Google and clicks on a featured snippet result, Google will send this user to the specific piece of text on the page and highlight it. Seemingly, without the context of the introduction above or content surrounding this answer. And although this focus on getting a quick answer is understandable from a user’s view, it seems quite contradictory to Google’s view that long-form content provides more quality and a better user experience.

So, what does this mean for us? It might mean some changes to your design, for example considering a sticky header to keep your brand in the picture wherever someone is on your page. But mostly, it means that structuring your content becomes even more important to make sure that each part of your text can stand alone. To make it easy, you’ll have to treat every piece of text on your page as its own landing page. Our SEO Copywriting training, which is part of our Content SEO training course, can definitely help you out with that.

Licensing program for news publishers

With an increase of zero-click searches (where questions are being answered at the top of the SERPs), it’s becoming more difficult for certain businesses to get people to click through to their site. And this makes it more difficult to make money and create new content. That’s why Google has launched an early pilot for news publishers. A licensing program in which they’ll pay publishers for high-quality content, to make sure they’ll be able to keep their business running and provide people with complex and deeper stories on different issues and interests. Now, this is still a pilot for specific countries and specific publications, so we’re curious to see where it goes.

Free product listings in the SERP

Google has a product tab in their search, but they seem to be shifting more and more to showing products directly in the search results. And the latest announcement in this is that if you have schema.org and structured data for the products on your site, your products become eligible to being shown directly in the search results. Without paying Google. And this is pretty cool because it’s a step in opening up the web further for everyone. Anyone who uses schema.org and implements their structured data the right way can compete, even with the bigger players. If you haven’t implemented schema.org yet, our Yoast SEO plugin and WooCommerce SEO plugin can help you with that.

Bing Site Scan tool

Bing has launched the Site Scan tool, a potential competitor to existing tools where you can crawl your site to find technical SEO issues. It’s not as extensive as other tools you might be familiar with, but it gives you reports on things that are broken and can impact your rankings. So it’s definitely worth having a look at.

There’s lots and lots of more fun news we discussed in the webinar, such as a page experience update, the latest on structured data for recipes, a new fact check label, and more. To get access to this and other videos to stay on top of the latest news in SEO and WordPress, you can subscribe to one of our Yoast SEO academy training courses:

What’s new in WordPress?

Web Stories (beta)

The upcoming release of WordPress 5.5 comes with a few noteworthy features which we discussed in the webinar. But in this blog post, I want to highlight one of them: Web Stories. Now, this is still in the beta stage, but this editor shows us a promising next step in the way we create and present content. To put it in understandable words: Web Stories makes it possible to present your content in a visual, engaging and swipeable way on your site (think Instagram or other visual social platforms).

The cool thing with this new feature and others like it, is that the Google team actively collaborates with us to make sure it will work together well with our plugin. In the case of Web Stories, someone from Google made a pull request on our Yoast SEO Github. Which is essentially a request to review the changes they will make before they’re final. This gives us the opportunity to anticipate them and make sure our plugin will seamlessly work together with this new editor by giving out the right metadata.

XML sitemaps in core

Another feature worth mentioning is that WordPress will be adding XML sitemaps in its core. This is pretty cool because it’s a feature that was still missing from WordPress. For everyone using our Yoast SEO plugin, we will disable this default sitemap for the simple fact that Yoast SEO already adds a sitemap which helps Google find your content. Don’t worry, we know what we’re doing. We’ve actually worked with a team from Google on optimizing our sitemap feature and the one Yoast SEO provides is just more up to date concerning metadata.

What’s new in Yoast?

With an ever-changing SEO world around us, we understand the importance of improving our work to keep up with these changes. Not just in terms of adding more languages to our Yoast SEO plugin, but also in providing everyone in the community with an easy and natural workflow.

Duplicate Post

That’s why we recently acquired the Duplicate Post plugin from its original developer Enrico Battocchi, who has also joined our team as a senior developer on the plugin. This plugin lets you duplicate any post or page in WordPress, and all its settings, with just one click. You can read more about this plugin, and what it can help you with, in our announcement post.

Improved publishing workflow

What’s new in Yoast SEO is an improved publishing workflow and the possibility to tell search engines how to treat links that you add to your content. These are both features to help our users create quality content that fits into a good SEO strategy. The improved publishing workflow helps you keep an eye on the rankability and readability of your text, but also makes it easy to share your new post right away.

Rel attributes for links

The rel attributes we’ve added for links, might not be recognized as a Yoast feature right away, but they are. And I’ll tell you what they’re for. This feature helps you mark external links as nofollow, which is always a good idea if they lead to pages you don’t really want to endorse. Also, you can use the sponsored attribute to show search engines that an external link is commercial. These attributes help Google get a better sense of what happens with links on the web.

You can read all about these new features in our Yoast SEO 14.4 release post. And if you’re curious about the other topics we discussed, have a look at our Yoast SEO academy subscriptions to get access to these SEO News videos.

The post The latest news in SEO and WordPress: July 2020 appeared first on Yoast.

Parent and child pages: Linking hierarchical post types for SEO

When we talk about site structure on WordPress we often focus on blogs post: “Use tags and categories and link to your the best fitting related posts!” But you probably have hierarchical post types on your site too. An example of a hierarchical post type is the Page post type; a page can have parent, child, and sibling pages. Inherently, these pages fit in a certain structure and, with little effort, you can leverage this structure to boost your SEO. Let’s have a look!

Site structure and SEO

A solid site structure is essential for SEO. Users and search engines love content to be findable and well-organized. Therefore, your site should have a clear structure, your menu should reflect this structure and users should easily navigate your site to find what they’re looking for. Navigating often means following links, and just like readers do, search engines follow links. So, in fact, by organizing and connecting your content in a sensible way, you’re able to hit two birds with one stone: please users and search engines.

Internal linking

Smart internal linking leads users and search engines to related content, and ideally, to your best content. For instance, if we write about keyword research tools, it makes sense to link to other posts about keyword research (and not, let’s say, posts about the robots.txt file). Moreover, if we want to keep users engaged and show our expertise, it’s a good idea to link from all these related posts to our best and most complete resource on the topic: our ultimate guide on keyword research.

Doing so, we’ll not only guide readers to this guide but search engines too; as this post gets so many (internal) links, it must be an important post. As a consequence, Google will rank it higher than other topically related posts on your site. We call this a cornerstone strategy. And, in fact, your hierarchical pages offer some great opportunities here!

What is a hierarchical post type?

In a hierarchical post type, you can place posts in a certain hierarchy by selecting a parent page. This often means the parent page covers an overarching theme and groups various child pages that are topically related. A child page can only have one parent page, but a parent page can have multiple child pages. So a child page can have sibling pages on the same level. For instance, on a company website, a Team and Mission page are probably child pages of the About us page. And, in that case, the Team and Mission page are siblings.

Hierarchical vs non-hierarchical

Hierarchical means that there are different levels: the parent page is on top, followed by child pages on a sub-level, which could again be followed by grand-child pages on a sub-sub-level. A non-hierarchical system means that all items are on the same level. You can compare it with the table of content and the index of a book. The table of content structures topics in a hierarchical way. For instance, in a book about big cats:

Big cats

  1. Africa’s big cats
    1. Lion
    2. Leopard
    3. Cheetah
  2. Asia’s big cats
    1. Tiger
    2. etc

While you’ll have an index like:

African savannah p. 33
cheetah p. 10
Himalayan mountains p. 18
lion p. 21
snow leopard p. 12
etc

Both structures will help you find content in a slightly different way. In WordPress, blog posts usually are a non-hierarchical post type; you can’t give them a parent. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t structure these posts! You should definitely organize them by giving them tags and/or categories and interlinking them properly. The main difference here is that you can put non-hierarchical posts in multiple categories and give them various tags, while hierarchical pages will only have one parent per page.

How do you set a parent page?

On a hierarchical post type, you can easily set a parent for your page. In the WordPress block editor, you should go to the settings sidebar and scroll to Page attributes:

Setting the parent of a WordPress page in the post sidebar in the WordPress block editor

Under Parent Page you’ll find a list of pages on your site. Just select the parent page of the page you’re creating and you’re done. If you do this, the hierarchy is reflected in the URL and breadcrumb of the page too: just look at the URL of our About us and Mission page:

https://yoast.com/about-us/
https://yoast.com/about-us/mission/

And the breadcrumb also shows where this page sits on our website:

The breadcrumb of a page shows where the page sits on your site: the Mission page is a child page of About us.

When do you choose an hierarchical post type?

Not all content fits in a hierarchical post type. But some pages, like your About us pages, definitely do; they all fall under one overarching them: About us. But also topical content, for which you’d like to rank, can fit very well.

An example: Let’s say you’re a fan of big cats and you write about them to raise money to support their survival in their natural habitat. One section of your site is dedicated to describing these big cats, which species belong to this group, and giving more details about each one of them. In that case, using hierarchical pages makes sense. You could have:

  • A parent page about all big cats: here you can write about which species belong to the big cats, what they have in common, how they live, why they are such awesome creatures, and a short description of all of them.
    • An African big cats’ page, which tells you everything about the group of big cats originating from Africa: the lion, leopard, and cheetah. This is the child of the big cats’ page. On the same level, you can have two sibling pages: big cats from Asia and big cats from the Americas.
      • Pages about every single species, for instance, the leopard. This parent is the child of the Africa’s big cats’ page and the grandchild of the big cats’ page. It goes into more detail about the single species.

Link your hierarchical posts for users and SEO

As all this content with one parent page is related, it makes sense to connect it! You can do so by internal linking. For instance, you can link from the leopard page to the lion page and the cheetah page. But of course, as you’ll probably mention these species belong to Africa’s big cats, you should link to the parent too. From the parent pages, it also makes sense to link to the child pages; when reading about Africa’s big cats, people probably want to know more about the species belonging to this group.

For search engines, all these links show the connection between your content; they create a sort of cluster and make clear how pages relate to each other. Moreover, all this related content and its context helps search engines to better understand what entities you’re talking about: not Lion the candy bar, but the lion, Africa’s big cat (although that might be quite obvious in this example).

Linking them is easy with Yoast SEO Premium!

Since Yoast SEO 14.5 we have a new feature in Yoast SEO Premium! As you’ve read above, linking hierarchical post types is beneficial for SEO. And linking them is super easy with the block editor in Yoast SEO Premium. We’ve created two blocks:

  • a sub pages block: a block that lists and links the child pages of a page
  • a siblings block : a block that lists and links the siblings of a page

Adding them is super easy: if you create a new block, search for sibling or sub-pages and the blocks will pop-up. In this video, you can see how it works:

Want to have this feature, and loads of other awesome functionalities, like internal linking suggestions or a redirect manager, too?

Get Yoast SEO Premium Only $89 USD (ex VAT)

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Yoast SEO 14.5: New internal linking blocks for Premium

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.

You can find the new Yoast Internal Linking Blocks in the block editor

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:

  • Italian food
    • Pasta
    • Pizza
    • Soup
    • Bread

Adding the Subpages block to the page, automatically presents all these subpages in a neat list.

The Subpages automatically lists the subpages that have the Italian food page as a parent

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.

The Siblings block automatically a list with links to the other siblings of the Italian food parent page

Now, you can link all hierarchically related content by simply adding a block! The blocks only work on hierarchical pages, not on blog posts.

Want to read more about working with hierarchical pages? Read Willemien’s post on parent and child pages: Linking hierarchical post types for SEO.

Make the blocks yours with CSS!

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:

A bit of CSS turns the blocks into an eyecatcher for your site

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.

.yoast-url-list { 
	display: flex;
	flex-wrap: wrap;
	list-style: none;
}
.yoast-url-list li {
	margin: 0 10px 10px 0;
	flex: 1 1 30%;
	background: #FFF;
	border-radius: 3px;
	box-shadow: 1px 1px 3px #CCC;
}
.yoast-url-list li a {
	padding: 7px 10px;
	display: block;
	text-decoration: none;
}
.yoast-url-list li a:hover {
	background: #EFEFEF;
}

Disabling WordPress core XML sitemaps

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.

You can read more about this decision in our FAQ on XML sitemaps in WordPress 5.5 and Yoast SEO.

That’s Yoast SEO 14.5

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.

Thanks for using Yoast SEO!

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A linguistic approach to creating content that ranks

Search engines are trying to understand language: they want to understand what users are searching for, and they want to be able to provide them with the best results. Before I started working at Yoast, I studied linguistics: the scientific study of language. During my years at Yoast, I’ve noticed that linguistics and SEO have a lot of overlap. In this article, I want to give you some SEO insights from a linguistic perspective. Let’s dive in!

Different aspects of language

Before we can go into the linguistic approach to SEO, we first have to understand what language is. Language consists of many different aspects. Think about it: we make speech sounds or write letters, which together form words. We put these words in a specific order, so they form sentences and phrases. And these sentences mean something to us.

Sometimes we also want to achieve something with language. For example, when we say “it’s cold in here,” we might not only want to express we’re cold, but we could mean it as a request to close the window. To study all of these aspects, we distinguish different levels of language in the field of linguistics.

Linguistic levels of language

The most basic level is the level of sounds and letters, which we call phonology (when it comes to speech) and graphology (when we talk about writing). Then, there’s the morphological level, which studies how these sounds and letters together make words and different word forms. For example, the word “house” can be combined with “tree” to make “treehouse” and with “dog” to make “doghouse,” but we can’t really combine it with “banana.”

The next level, syntax, describes the rules we have for creating sentences. There are a million words we can choose from that we could use to form an infinite number of possible sentences. But these syntactic rules allow us only a small number of ways in which these words can be combined.

The level of semantics studies the meaning of different elements of language. What do we mean when we say something, and how do we understand others? Finally, pragmatics looks at meaning within a context. For instance, someone could say: “I’m getting hot, will you crack open the door?” Semantically, “crack” would mean “to break,” but pragmatically, we know that they don’t actually want us to break the door; they want us to open the door to let in some fresh air.

Level of language Field of linguistics
Sounds and letters Phonology (speech) & graphology (writing)
Words and word forms Morphology
Sentences and rules Syntax
Meaning Semantics
Context and language use Pragmatics
Sources: Crystal (1987), Hickey (2005)

Which levels of language can Google understand?

Okay, but what does this have to do with search engines? Well, search engines are trying to understand language the way humans do. And they’re getting better and better at it. A couple of years ago, search engines could only understand basic elements of language: they could recognize keywords in your content. Because of that, it was common practice to optimize just for keywords.

But times have changed. Search engines are becoming smarter and smarter, and they are getting better at understanding more levels of language. Google is now trying to understand language at the level of syntax, morphology, semantics, and even pragmatics. How? Let’s find out.

Understanding what characterizes high-quality content

With every update, Google tries to get closer to understanding language like the human brain. The Panda update (2011) addressed thin content and keyword stuffing. People could no longer rank high with low-quality pages filled with keywords. Since this update, Google is trying to understand language at the semantic and pragmatic levels. They want to know what people deem high-quality content; content that genuinely offers information about the search term they used.

Read more: Google Panda »

Understanding the meaning of phrases

A few years later, with the Hummingbird update (2013), Google took a deeper dive into semantics. This update focused on identifying relations between search queries. It made Google pay more attention to each word in a search query, ensuring that the whole search phrase is taken into account, rather than just particular words. They wanted to be capable of understanding what you mean when you type in a search query.

Google took that even further. Since they rolled out the RankBrain algorithm in 2015, they can interpret neologisms (words that have not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language, like “coronacation”), colloquialisms (casual communication, like “ain’t” and “gonna”), and they can process dialogues.

Read more: A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates »

Understanding different word forms

Google also has become a lot better at understanding different forms of a word or phrase. You no longer have to stuff your articles with the same keyword over and over again. If you’re writing an article about [reading books], Google will recognize various forms of these words, like [read], [reads], and [book]. What’s more, Google also understands synonyms. Write about [novel], [chronicle], and [volume], and Google will still rank you for [book]. Using some variations in your wording makes your texts nicer to read, and that’s what Google finds important, too.

Read more: What is keyword stemming? »

Understanding pragmatics

But Google is not just trying to understand content by analyzing text. To identify which results are useful for people, they also use user signals, like the bounce rate, click-through rate, and the time people spend on a website. They are even researching users’ emotions to adapt their search results based on, for example, the choice of wording for a search query.

Understanding context

You might have heard about the most recent big update, BERT (2019). With their latest innovation, Google is again becoming closer to understanding language at a human level. BERT is a Natural Language Processing (NLP) model that uses the context and relations of all the words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. With this update, Google can figure out the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it. This helps them provide their users with even more meaningful and fitting results.

Read more: Google BERT: A better understanding of queries »

A linguistic approach to SEO

So, what does this mean for how you should optimize your content? Google is trying to understand language like we do. And with every update, they are getting closer to understanding language at a human level. They want to provide their users with high-quality search results that fit their goals.

Simply put, this means you should write for your audience, and not for search engines. Research your audience, try to get to know them, and provide them with the information and solutions they are looking to find!

Write naturally and mix things up

Moreover, try to write naturally. Don’t just stuff your text with the keyphrase you’re trying to rank for. That’s not only unpleasant to read for your visitors, but also bad for your rankings. Google can understand synonyms, different word forms, and the context of words, so make use of that! If you’re trying to rank for [cat], don’t just use [cat] over and over in your text. Use synonyms, like [kitty] or [puss]. Mix things up and use the plural form, [cats], and related phrases, like [litter box] or [cat food].

Yoast SEO Premium can help you with this. Our plugin also recognizes synonyms, different word forms, and related phrases, and helps you optimize your content for these words. This allows you to write in a more natural way, so you can satisfy your users and rank high in the search results!

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Learn about the three Core Web Vitals: LCP, FID & CLS

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!

Table of contents

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.

web.dev/vitals/

The three pillars of page experience

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. 

An overview of the scoring for LCP

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:

This image from Google gives you a good idea of how the LCP is measured

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!

PageSpeed Insights identifies the large header image as the LCP on on our site

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.
  • render-blocking JavaScript and CSS: so minify your CSS, defer non-critical CSS and inline critical CSS.
  • slow-loading resources: so optimize your images, preload resources, compress text files, et cetera.
  • issues on client-side rendering: so minimize critical JavaScript, use server-side rendering and pre-rendering. 

Google has more documentation on the background of LCP and how to optimize for it.

FID: First Input Delay

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.

A browser has to do a lot of work and sometimes it needs to park certain requests, only to come back later to them. It can’t do everything all at once. As we’re building ever more complex sites — often powered by JavaScript — we’re asking a lot from browsers. To speed up the process between getting content on screen and making it interactive, we need to focus on the FID. 

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.

After testing the FID you get a score and you can work from there

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.

If you are looking to improve your scores, you will often find JavaScript to be the culprit of bad grades. JavaScript helps us build awesome interactions, but it can also lead to slow websites with complex code. Often, the browser cannot respond to input while it is executing JavaScript. If you work on improving your JavaScript code and the handling of it, you are automatically working on improving your page experience scores.

This is the hardest part, though. Most sites can gain a lot by reducing the time it takes to execute JavaScript, breaking up complex tasks or removing unused JavaScript.

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.

There are always improvements to make, but you have to decide if that’s worth it — or even possible

Read Google’s documentation on FID and how to optimize FID.

CLS: Content Layout Shift

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.

CNN.com doesn’t score too well in PageSpeed Insights. You can see it found five moving elements that contribute to the CLS

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. 

The scores for CLS

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.

I’ve already mentioned that ads are one of the main culprits of this. They are often in JavaScript and not well-optimized, plus they are served from an external server. Slowness is added in every step and you have to work hard to get your ads to appear in the right spot at a moments notice. But there’s another element that’s responsible for large layout shifts: images.

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.

Google has a lot of background documentation on CLS, plus on how to optimize for CLS.

Tools to measure Web Vitals

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.
  • Search Console Core Web Vitals report: You can now get insights from your site straight from Search Console! Great to get a feel for how your site is performing.

These are the Core Web Vitals

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!

The post Learn about the three Core Web Vitals: LCP, FID & CLS appeared first on Yoast.

Which pages to noindex or nofollow on your site?

Some of the pages of your site serve a purpose, but that purpose isn’t ranking in search engines or even getting traffic to your site. These pages need to be there, as glue for other pages or simply because regulations require them to be accessible on your website. If you regularly read our blog, you’ll know how noindex or nofollow can help you deal with these pages. However, if you are new to these terms, please read on and let me explain what they are, and what pages they might apply to!

What is noindex nofollow?

noindex means that a web page shouldn’t be indexed by search engines and therefore shouldn’t be shown on the search engine’s result pages. nofollow means that search engines spiders shouldn’t follow the links on that page. You can add these values to your robots meta tag. The robots meta tag is a piece of code in the head section of a web page. It tells search engines how to crawl and whether to index a page.

Our ultimate guide on the robots meta tag is a great read if you want to take a bit of a deeper dive into this subject.

In short:

  • The robots meta tag looks like this in most cases:
    <meta name="robots" content="[VALUE1,VALUE2]">
  • VALUE1 and VALUE2 are set to index, follow by default, meaning the page at hand can be indexed by search engines and links on that page can be followed to crawl the pages they link to.
  • VALUE1 and VALUE2 can be set to noindex, nofollow or another combination like index, nofollow .

But don’t let this code scare you away. Yoast SEO helps you out! If you want to know how to noindex a post in WordPress, in a super-easy way, you should read this post: How to noindex a post in WordPress: the easy way.

But when should you use which value?

Pages to set to noindex

Author archives on a one-author blog

If you are the only one writing for your blog, your author pages are probably 90% the same as your blog homepage. That’s of no use to Google and can be considered duplicate content. To prevent this kind of duplicate content you can choose to disable the author archive entirely. Here’s how to enable or disable it easily with Yoast SEO. If, for some reason, you’d like to keep it on your site, but out of the search results, you can noindex it. Fortunately, with Yoast SEO, this is not very difficult either; just check how to noindex an author archive.

Certain (custom) post types

Sometimes a plugin or a web developer adds a custom post type that you don’t want to be indexed. At Yoast, for example, we use custom pages for our products, as we are not a typical online store selling physical products. So, we don’t need a product image, filters like dimensions and technical specifications on a tab next to the description. Therefore, we noindex the regular product pages WooCommerce outputs and are using our own pages. Indeed, we noindex the product post type.

Relatedly, we’ve seen eCommerce solutions that added specifications like dimensions and weight as a custom post type as well. These pages are considered to be low-quality content. You’ll understand that these pages have no use for a visitor or Google, so need to be kept out of the search result pages too.

Thank you pages

That page serves no other purpose than to thank your customer/newsletter subscriber/first-time commenter. These pages are usually thin content pages, with upsell and social share options, but no value for someone using Google to find useful information. Therefore, those pages shouldn’t be in the search results pages.

Admin and login pages

Most login pages shouldn’t be in Google. But these are. Keep yours out of the index by adding a noindex to it. Exceptions are the login pages that serve a community, like Dropbox or similar services. Just ask yourself if you would google one of your login pages if you were not in your company. If not, it’s probably safe to say that Google doesn’t need to index these login pages. Luckily, if you are running WordPress, you’re safe as the CMS noindexes your site’s login page automatically.

Internal search results

Internal search results are pretty much the last pages Google would want to send its visitors to. If you want to ruin a search experience, you link to other search pages, instead of an actual result. But the links on a search result page are still very valuable, you definitely want Google to follow them. So, all links should be followed, and the robots meta setting should be:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow">

Yoast SEO makes sure your internal search pages are set to noindex by default. It’s one of Yoast SEO’s hidden features. This is not an editable setting, because it’s simply how it should be done according to the Google Guidelines, and we fully agree with them on this.

For developers only: If you do want to change this, this can be done by using one of our filters. An example can be found here.

Pages to set to nofollow

For all the examples mentioned above, there is no need to nofollow all the links on these pages. You don’t want to show them in the search results, but you do want Google to follow the links on the page. Now, when should you add a nofollow to your robots meta tag?

If you set a page to nofollow with a robots meta tag, none of the links on that page will be followed. Google came up with nofollow to be able to distinguish links to untrusted content (or, later on, paid for, like advertisements). On a regular website, there are probably very few pages you’d want Google not to follow any link.

An example: if you have a page that lists SEO books, with a surplus of Amazon affiliate links, these could be of value to your site for your users. But I’d nofollow that entire page if there’s nothing else that matters on the page. You might have it indexed, though. Just make sure you cloak your links the right way.

Nofollow single links

If you have a post or page with multiple links you might want to help search engines qualify them. Nowadays, you can nofollow a single link to, or even set it to sponsored or UGC. Adding the right rel attributes to your link allows you to do so. For instance, a link to an advertisement would look like this:  <a href="https://www.example.com" rel="nofollow sponsored">example link</a>. With Yoast SEO adjusting these rel attributes is super easy, as you can see in this video:

Conclusion

As we have seen, whether or not to noindex a page or nofollow a link boils down to two questions: do you want this page to show up in the search results pages and should search engines follow the links on this page? For ‘thank you’ pages or login pages, for example, the answer to the first questions is “no”. For a page with loads of affiliate links, the answer to the second question is “no”. Keep the examples from this post in mind and you shouldn’t have any more trouble deciding the answers for your own site!

PS. Did you noindex a post or page while you didn’t mean to? No worries, as you can fix an accidental noindex easily!

Read more: How to noindex a post »

The post Which pages to noindex or nofollow on your site? appeared first on Yoast.