Searching without result: Insights from zero result searches

When users search on your website and find no results, that’s usually a bad experience. But if you track these “zero result searches”, you might find yourself with data that can help you identify new content and service opportunities. It might also tell you a lot about the difference between how you see your website and how your users see it.

The gap between brand identity vs. brand perception

Almost every website owner can explain in a few sentences what their website is about, and why people should visit it. This is the identity of your website. Separately to that, each visitor creates their own impression of your website (influenced by your design, content, tone, and so on). This is brand perception.

If you’re doing a great job with your marketing and your messaging, there should be little difference between your identity and your brand perception. That way you’re building a consistent brand for your business.

But that’s a hard balance to strike. And if you get a lot of visitors to your site, it’s likely that they’ll all have slightly different opinions of and experience with your pages. They might have diverse expectations, backgrounds, and cultural influences. That’ll make it harder for you to ‘land’ your stories and messaging.

That creates a gap. The wider that gap, the harder it’ll be for you to convince users to take action. You haven’t convinced them, helped them, or made them believe.

In our experience, most websites aren’t always successful in achieving this harmony of brand and brand perception. But how can you determine whether this is the case on your site? Well, your on-site search can provide some helpful insight.

Insight from zero result searches

A search query with no results can have quite a few different meanings, all of them useful information to help you improve your website. The most common ones are:

1. Right content, wrong visitors?

Perhaps your visitors are expecting to find a certain piece of information on your website, but shouldn’t have been on your website in the first place (a discrepancy between your identity and the brand perception of your visitor).

Maybe you’re attracting the wrong kind of visitors for what you’re offering (or in the wrong stage of a buying process). Take a look at the traffic source in order to determine if you’re ranking on the proper keywords or targeting the right terms with your campaigns.

Or, perhaps you’re attracting the right kinds of visitors, but they’re going to the wrong content – and they’re getting mixed signals about what products or services you offer (or don’t).

Aligning the right types of people to the right pages and content might mean that they never have to search in the first place. A good way to ensure this is by optimizing your site structure.

2. Missed opportunities

The other way to view this problem is to see it as an opportunity. If you’re attracting visitors who’re engaging with your site but searching for products/services/information you don’t have, perhaps you can meet that need.

Imagine your website is for a bakery which sells cupcakes. You may find that lots of people search your site for ‘donuts’, but they get no results.

Maybe, instead of working to change your brand perception and all of your campaigns, you could start to sell donuts. In fact, you already have some great data to help you to understand the market demand and consumer behaviour. And the customers are already on your site.

Of course, real-world production, marketing and logistics challenges are never ‘simple’, but zero result searches can be a great way to spot the next big thing you should pivot into.

3. Keyword choices

The words used by the visitor when searching for something are different from the vocabulary used on the website. For example; your visitor searches for “VAT” but the website only contains a section about “goods and services tax”. So they don’t find what they’re looking for.

This situation is a great chance to improve your website. You will be presented with a list of quickly fixable “issues”; keywords used by your visitors which are not present on your website at the moment. If you can work out what those searchers wanted, you can go back to your content and diversify your language and phrasing to match their vocabulary and tone.

That’ll help you to solve their problems, and, to close the gap between brand identity and perception.

Read more: The ultimate guide to keyword research »

4. Your internal search engine isn’t good enough

In some cases, it may be that you already have all of the right content you need to solve your users problems – but that they’re not finding it when they search. Perhaps the results aren’t in a great order, or, some pages aren’t showing up at all? It’s important to have an internal search engine that functions properly.

If your site is running on WordPress, and you’re using the default settings, then you may find that your results prioritize recency over relevance, which isn’t always a good fit for searchers. You might consider using a plugin that alters WordPress’ search behavior, and makes it more configurable (like Relevanssi).

How do I set up the tracking?

If you’re one of the many people who use Google Analytics (and/or Google Tag Manager), then this guide should give you a great starting point to set up your tracking.

You may find that the details differ a little for you, depending on a few variables. If you’re using a different analytics package, or, if your on-site search isn’t ‘normal’, then you might need to do some work to get everything set up properly.

In conclusion: 0 results can be very useful

Yes, zero result searches can be a bad experience for your users. But by tracking them you can turn these experiences into useful information to improve your site.

By analyzing these searches you can figure out whether the right people are visiting your site or whether your audience is able to find their way around your site. You can also use the search queries as inspiration in the products and services you offer. Or find out whether you’re focusing on the right keywords, the ones your audience uses. It can also give you insight into your internal search engine and if it’s functioning the way you want it to.

Enough reasons to set up the tracking through your Analytics, right?

Keep reading: More on website optimization: 6 daily SEO tasks »

The post Searching without result: Insights from zero result searches appeared first on Yoast.

Measure your social media efforts with UTM tags

Every company should have a social media strategy. It helps you to increase traffic to your website, it makes it easier to engage with (potential) customers and you’ll increase brand awareness. Of course, you want to see if your efforts pay off. Are you getting closer to the goals that you’ve set up in your strategy? Let’s take a look at how you can measure your social media efforts.

Ways to measure social efforts

If you spend your time writing social posts, creating images and more, you want to know if your social media strategy and your campaigns work. Of course, you can check Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Instagram Statistics. But the thing is, those show only a limited amount of information, mostly about what happens on that particular platform. If you’re doing fine with just the information that these platforms provide, of course, that’s great.

Perhaps, though, you want information about the relation between social media and the traffic to your site. That’s where UTM tagging comes in. UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module. Google uses this method to track your URL so you can track custom campaigns in Google Analytics. In other words, it helps you to see whether a post or campaign on social media actually led to more traffic on your website.

Want to make sure your social posts look fabulous? The social preview feature in Yoast SEO Premium helps you with that. It visualizes what your post will look like when shared on Facebook or Twitter!

Using UTM tags

A UTM tag consists of parameters that will help you track back your URL and give you information. The UTM tag will always come after your URL when you share it on a social channel. So, you take the URL of a post and simply paste the UTM tag after the URL. By doing so, for instance, it could look like this:

https://yoast.com/measure-social-media-efforts/#utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=seo-post-social&utm_content=link&utm_term=measure-social

There are several websites that help you build a UTM tag, but it’s always nice to understand what you’re looking at. The UTM we use when sharing this post on Twitter, for example, is: 

#utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=seo-post-social&utm_content=link&utm_term=measure-social

The source is mandatory. The other information, such as content and term, gives a more detailed explanation about the type of things you’re sharing on social media platforms. Make sure to be consistent in your tagging. If you mix uppercase and lowercase, Google Analytics will see it as two different types of tags. This means that data gets separated in Google Analytics. At Yoast, we use a # to start off the UTM tag, but most tools use a ?. We use the # because then we know for certain that we are not causing duplicate content since Google ignores anything after the #. So let’s break down this UTM tag, shall we?

The parameters

utm_source=twitter.com
The source explains where visitors are coming from. Because we’re sharing this post on Twitter, we’ll use twitter.com. For Facebook, we’ll use facebook.com. And so forth.

utm_medium=social
The medium explains what kind of medium is used (surprise, surprise). Twitter is a social media platform and Facebook is a social media platform, so we’ll use social. By grouping all social media platforms with the medium=social UTM tag, we can easily see in Google Analytics what all social traffic is doing for our site. This way, we can compare a post that’s been shared on all social media platforms to, for example, the same post shared in newsletters. 

utm_campaign=seo-post-social
Where source and medium tell you more about where your visitors came from, the campaign tag tells you more about the subjects you’re sharing on, in this case, social. For instance, if you have a product launch or a sales campaign, you can use this UTM tag to track in Google Analytics how that specific campaign is doing. Your campaign is something you have to think about really well, as it has to cover everything you want to be covered. The one that we use for this post is the one that we use for all the daily blog posts that we share. If we share something, for example, that has to do with the Yoast Care fund we’ll use ‘utm_campaign=carefund’.

utm_content=link
The content piece describes what kind of content you’re sharing. You’re always sharing a link, that’s true. But if you’re sharing an image, your content will be utm_content=image… As the image will be the central point. (or video, gif, voice memo, whatever you’re planning on sharing!)

utm_term=measure-social
The utm_term tag is mostly used to add keywords for Google ads. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them for other things than ads. This tag can be used to add more information about the post you’re sharing on social platforms. For instance, the topic of the post you’re sharing or the date.

Make your own UTM

Once you get the hang of creating a UTM tag, you’ll do it with your eyes closed. But for now, it might still seem confusing. A good tool to use when you just start building your UTM tags is the Campaign URL Builder tool by Google Analytics. It’s important that you use the UTM tags in such a way that you can understand it and get the correct data from it in Google Analytics. It doesn’t matter if another company or website does it differently, as long as you know what your own UTM tag means. You have to find a way that works for you. In the image below, you’ll notice that the order of the parameters in the generated campaign URL differs from how we did it: This does not matter.

Campaign URL Builder by Google Analytics

Make sure that you save your campaigns somewhere, so that in the future, when you post something that’s related to the campaign, you can make sure you use the same one. Whenever we post a YoastCon 2020 related blog post or page, you’ll see we use &utm_campaign=yoastcon2020. Or for anything that’s related to the Yoast Care fund, we’ll use &utm_campaign=carefund.

Let’s measure your social media efforts!

Now, I can hear you thinking: ‘That’s all nice and stuff, but now what? Who will tell me if my social media posts are working?’ Well… You will! With the help of Google Analytics of course! In the video below, Annelieke, Lead of our Research team, explains how you can interpret your data and where you can find the information that you collected with the use of your UTM tags.


To find the relevant data in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns. Here, you can find all the campaigns that you’ve set up an UTM tag for. In the search bar, you can search for more specific campaigns. Just type in the campaign name you want to learn more about! You’ll find information about the number of users that clicked on that campaign, the bounce rate and the conversion rate, for instance. Watch the video, for more options and a more detailed explanation.

Note: Facebook likes to mess things up with your self-made UTM tag that you put all your hard work in. Even though that’s not very nice of Facebook, you can still see where people went by looking at the landing page. 

Now, it’s your turn!

Creating and measuring your UTM tags might be a little hard in the beginning. But, believe me, you’ll find a way to make it work for you. Take your time for both creating and measuring, and start with a campaign that you really want to be measured. If you’re still asking yourself: “But why should I… does social media even influence my SEO?” then I suggest you to read this post that’s answering that exact question and come back later. If you’re ready to start, then I wish you the best of luck!

What’s your favorite way to measure your social media efforts?

Read more: Basic SEO: How to use social media »

The post Measure your social media efforts with UTM tags appeared first on Yoast.

Analytics: 5 tips to measure your Black Friday success

Black Friday is fast approaching. The day of the year where people go wild and spend loads of money in stores and online shops. As an owner of an online business, you want people to spend their money at your store. So you want to draw a lot of visitors to your site and seduce them with an awesome discount. But how do you know if your Black Friday campaign was a success? Which steps do you need to take to make sure you can measure that success in Google Analytics? Read this post to find out!

Black Friday extras

You’re probably going to do something special during BFCM weekend. Something extra, more than the usual. You might publish more posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Perhaps you’re dedicating a special newsletter to the Black Friday sale; you might even send out an extra one. What about your website? Will you add a banner throughout the website? Add a countdown clock? A pop-up? Write down all the things you’re planning to do during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and think about how you’re going to measure them.

1. Measurement plan

In comes the measurement plan. It’s vital to know if you can measure the things you’d like to measure and if you have the data to compare it with. If you already have a measurement plan, grab it and refine it. If not, get some piece of paper and a pen and write down the following:

  1. Your business objective for this Black Friday sale
  2. The strategies of your business objective
  3. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
  4. Set targets per KPI
  5. Identify segments

There are a couple of sources you can consult for more detailed information: this post from Avinash Kaushik about the measurement model, a Google Analytics YouTube tutorial about creating a measurement plan and these two posts with practical examples of measurement plans: one about Black Friday and one about a charity website.

Once you’ve clarified the above, you need to have an implementation plan so that everything you want to track, is implemented. You might need to ask a developer for certain things. But please keep in mind, measuring something is way, way better than measuring nothing. So if you find this a bit scary, don’t set the bar too high for yourself and measure the things that are easy for you to do.

2. Check your eCommerce tracking

If you own an online shop, you want to gather eCommerce data. Check if you have information about your eCommerce Conversion Rate, the shopping behavior, product performance and revenue.

eCommerce data in Google Analytics

If you do not see this kind of data in Google Analytics, you might need to implement eCommerce tracking. For more information, read this guide about enhanced eCommerce tracking. Knowing what the shopping behavior, checkout behavior and so on is before Black Friday, gives you the opportunity to compare this data with the data you’re collecting during Black Friday. And that gives you insight into whether or not your Black Friday campaign has been successful.

3. Check goals and funnels

To be able to analyze your visitor’s behavior on your site even more, you can implement goals. You can set a goal for every time someone pressed the ‘add-to-cart’ button. Having a goal with a funnel for your checkout process is also vital. It calculates a goal conversion rate for the entire checkout and shows where people drop off in the funnel. During Black Friday, having this data will allow you to check for technical issues. If you see a sudden drop in the conversion rate or drop-offs, that’s a sign that tells you to dig in further. Check if payment options are working or if you have downtime.

Implement BFCM events in Google Analytics

If you decide to add banners and/or pop-ups or other elements on your websites where people can click on, don’t forget to implement events. Add goals to those events so you can analyze them in Google Analytics. You do want to know if people actually click on them, right? Adding events take in a bit of extra work. Luckily, Google Tag Manager makes implementing events a lot easier. There are a lot of tutorials on the world wide web that show you how to create events. One of my favorites is the video tutorial by Measureschool.

4. Special BFCM UTM tags

To identify all your Black Friday efforts on other sources such as social media and in your newsletters, you can’t live without the proper UTM tags. Using these UTM tags consistently throughout the entire Black Friday sale is key to effectively analyze the success of all your marketing efforts on other websites than yours. A couple of examples:

1a. Promoted post on Facebook

https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=blackfriday&utm_content=promoted-post

1b. Regular post on Facebook

https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=blackfriday&utm_content=general-post

2a. Text link in Newsletter

https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blackfriday&utm_content=textlink

2b. Button in Newsletter

https://example.com/shop/#utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blackfriday&utm_content=button

As you can see, I used blackfriday as the campaign UTM tag. Use the utm_campaign=blackfriday tag on all sources you’re using that point to your website and have a BlackFriday sales purpose. During and after the sale you can get insights from Google Analytics to see if people from the Black Friday campaign bought anything.

Black Friday campaigns in Google Analytics

Keep an eye on this campaign during the sale, if it’s not going according to plan, it will allow you to optimize your efforts during the sale. For example: put more money in ads on channels that lead to more sales. You can do a lot of cool things with this campaign; I described all of this in a post I wrote about custom campaigns.

5. Check Google Analytics stats during Black Friday

Google Analytics is great for keeping track if the sale is going right. You can check on a lot of things. Keep an eye on real-time stats, if you see a sudden drop in the number of users on your site, perhaps your site’s down or down in a specific country. You can also check your cart URL and checkout URL in the real-time analysis. If you see a lot of folks there, but no sales coming in, your checkout might not be working. If you just sent out a newsletter, and you see no-one coming to your site from a newsletter, perhaps you’ve added a broken link. The real-time functionality in Google Analytics is your friend here.

Conclusion

If you want to know if your Black Friday sale has been a success and want to know what made it into a success, you need data to compare the data you’re collecting during the sale with. Make sure you’re currently tracking all the data you need that makes you able to analyze your visitor’s behavior on your site. Start with writing down a measurement and implementation plan and check if all tracking is in place. After the sale is over, compare the data of the BFCM sale with your prior data and check what worked and what didn’t work so you’ll know what to do next time! You don’t have much time, so get crackin’! Happy analyzing!

Read more: Analytics basics: Which posts and pages perform best? »

The post Analytics: 5 tips to measure your Black Friday success appeared first on Yoast.

What is an exit survey and why should you use it?

When you’ve welcomed your visitors to your website, you want them to stay and to hang around and, eventually, you want them to convert. Converting could mean subscribing to your newsletter, making an appointment or buying one of your products. Or maybe you have a totally different goal for your website. 

But what do you do when visitors leave your website without completing your main goal? How do you find out why they are leaving? Is it a lack of information or is your product too expensive? To find out, you could set up an exit survey and add it to your website. In this blog post, we’ll tell you how.

What is an exit survey?

An exit survey is the type of survey you show visitors when they are about to leave your website. For example, you can make the survey pop up when a visitor moves their mouse cursor upwards and towards their browser toolbar. This is usually the moment that people leave your site. 

At that time, you can ask your visitors why they are leaving. It’s very valuable to get information about why people leave your website and why they didn’t complete your website’s goal or a page specific goal. 

Are visitors leaving my website quickly?

To find out if your website’s content meets the needs of your visitors, the first step is looking into your data. In Google Analytics, you can easily see what pages or posts have the highest bounce rate and what pages or posts have the highest exit rate:

In this example, you could set up an exit survey for the 2 pages with both high bounce rates and high exit rates. However, if you take a closer look at such pages, sometimes the high bounce rates or exit rates can easily be explained. Looking at our own Yoast.com website, quite a few blog posts have high bounce rates and exit rates. This often means that visitors were looking for specific information and found the information in the first blog post and then left. In this case, a high bounce rate or exit rate isn’t always bad. Of course, we work on different aspects of those posts to make visitors click to other pages and posts too, but the priority isn’t that high.

What pages should you start with?

Looking at the data, you could categorize some of your website’s pages or posts. At Yoast.com, we’ve sometimes grouped several blog posts to get more responses in a short time. If you have similar content, you could do this too. For example, when you’re running a shop, you could run an exit survey on all your category pages to find out what visitors think of those pages.

Think of what pages bring the most benefit for your company and start with those. For example, when over 50% of your visitors leaves the cart before finishing the order, you’re missing out on revenue. So, you’ll understand why you should choose the pages that have the highest priority for your website.

Exit survey questions

What questions you ask depends on the type of page. Think of the main goal of your page and what information you want from visitors leaving this page. Here are some examples per type of page:

Cart

  • What’s preventing you from completing your purchase today?
  • Do you have any questions before completing your purchase?

Product page

  • What information is missing or would make your decision to buy easier?
  • What is your biggest concern about purchasing this product?

After a purchase

  • Was there anything about our checkout process we could improve?
  • Which other options did you consider before choosing (product name)?

Informational page/blog post

  • Were you able to find the information you were looking for today?
  • How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague and why?

Hopefully, you’ll now have some inspiration to get started!

What to do with all the answers

Maybe you’ve read our blog post about top task surveys as well. In that article, we’ve explained what steps you need to take to analyze all the answers you get from an online survey.

The approach for an exit survey doesn’t differ much from the top task survey analysis. In short:

  1. Categorize the answers
  2. Discover the biggest problems
  3. Set up an action plan
  4. Make improvements to the specific pages -A/B test the improvements when your website is big enough-
  5. Keep an eye on the results!

Tools to start your own exit surveys

There are several tools that allow you to create a survey like this. We’re currently using Hotjar, but we’re planning to create our own design and implement it with Google Tag Manager. Other tools we know for setting up online surveys are:

On their sites, they offer a clear explanation of how to use these tools to perform an exit survey.

Have you ever set up an exit survey on your own website? If so, were you surprised by the answers? Let us know!

The post What is an exit survey and why should you use it? appeared first on Yoast.

How to do a one-page analysis in Google Analytics

I often get a request from our Blog team about one of their pages. Sometimes they want to know if the page has gotten more pageviews or they notice something weird and they want me to find out what’s going on. And this time they wanted more insight in the performance of one particular page. I want to share with you how I deal with this request.

So the other day I got a request to check the performance of our Blog homepage. We want to optimize that page so it fits better with the need of our audience. If you have an idea about that, you can leave your feedback in the comments section below this post.

Page level analysis

The first thing I had a look at is how ‘popular’ the page is and if it’s worth the effort to spend time and resources on this page. I went to the All pages report in Google Analytics, which you can find under Behavior –> Site content and did a cmd+F or ctrl+F search for the page https://yoast.com/seo-blog/. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for; it’s because it probably isn’t within the first ten results. So you need to expand your table first; you can do this on the right bottom of the table.

search for a page in Google Analytics

I notice it’s at position 32 if you look at the number of pageviews, which is a reasonably high position and thus worthy of further investigation. I also notice that in 6,327 of the cases it’s an entrance page, this means it’s in 35,3% of the cases the first page of the session (6,327 / 17,931 * 100).

You can also search for a specific post in the search bar to see just the metrics of that page but sometimes other pages show up as well.

Search for one page in Google Analytics

If the page is in blue letters, it means you can specify even further when clicking on it because it’s a link. Or you can use regex; regex stands for “regular expression”. Lunametrics made this fun regex guide that shows you how you can use regex in Google Analytics. It may sound a bit scary, but if you know the basics, it’s quite doable and will make your Google Analytics life a whole lot easier. Here’s how a regex would look if I just wanted the SEO blog homepage:

^yoast\.com\/seo-blog\/$

Use regex in the search bar in Google Analytics

But in this case, you can just as well click on the page to see just the metrics of that page. Try to understand what the metrics are saying and how it compares to the site’s average. In this case, for a page that’s built to guide people to blog posts of their interests, a bounce rate of 50.48% is fairly high. That means that in half of the cases, people didn’t do anything on that page! That’s not what the page is designed for.

I was also curious to see if this page gets a lot of mobile traffic, so I added a secondary dimension with the Device category. I then checked what the metrics told me.

Adding secondary dimension: device category in Google Analytics

About 10% of the page views come from a mobile device. You can see it has a higher bounce rate so checking the mobile experience is a good idea.

Trend analysis

And, I was curious to see how the page developed over time, so I added a wider timeframe to check if I saw something unusual. You can adjust the graph you’re seeing. Perhaps you’re interested if Bounce rate declined or not. You can select this metric and you’ll see the trend of the bounce rate of that page.

Adding a wider time frame in Google Analytics

Session level analysis

I then looked at this page from a page level. But, I had more questions about this page. If people are entering our site through this page, where are they coming from? So, I had a look from a session level perspective. I went to landing pages and did the same search as in the All pages report.

Finding a landing page in Google Analytics

It’s at position 65 and obviously has 6,327 sessions since we saw that in the All pages report at entrances. I once again looked at the metrics and tried to understand what they’re telling me. The number of pages per session, the bounce rate and the number of ‘new’ users. And I had a look at conversions.

I then dove in further, clicked on the page and added a secondary dimension: medium, so I could quickly see where traffic is coming from. I noticed that we have a lot of traffic that we don’t know the source of. So that’s something to explore further. In second position comes our plugin and third is organic search traffic. Which is interesting to see because I’m curious with what keywords people end up on that page and if we rank properly on that keyword or keyphrase. With that information, we can improve the SEO of that page even further.

Again, I had a look at bounce rates, pages per session, number of new users and possible conversions. Thinking about if the page is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Google Search Console analysis

I needed to go to Google Search Console to find information about the keywords or keyphrases the blog homepage ranks for. You go to your Google Search Console account and click on Search results. Then you set a filter that exactly matches the URL of your page, in our case: https://yoast.com/seo-blog/.

Adding a page filter in Google Search Console

You now see the queries and position of that page. Take a look at the metrics and try to understand what’s going on. It’s especially interesting if you have a lot of impressions but a low clickthrough rate (CTR).

Results of page filter in Google Search Console

Conclusion

What can we learn from this analysis? For one is that it’s worth the while to put some time and effort into this page. I learned that we can optimize the SEO of that page even further and that we can put some more effort into ranking for the keyword SEO blog.

I also noticed that it’s quite a popular page, but the bounce rate is too high for my taste. Especially when the goal of the page is to guide people to a blog post of their interest. So, there needs to be interaction with this page. We need to find out what people expect to find on this page. So, therefore, extra information is needed. That’s why we added a simple poll on this page, using Hotjar. We also created a heatmap with this tool to get a better understanding of how people behave on the page.

Combining data gives you a far more holistic view and will make sure you can draw more reliable conclusions. Data we can use to optimize the blog homepage even further. The perfect dataset doesn’t exist but we can try to get as far near perfection as possible.

The post How to do a one-page analysis in Google Analytics appeared first on Yoast.

Create your first report in Google Data Studio

When working with Google Analytics, you do not always want to stick with just a secondary dimension. Sometimes, you also want a third and fourth dimension. But in Google Analytics’s standard reports, that’s not possible. And the custom reports you can create in Google Analytics are very satisfying to look at. Maybe it’s my perfectionism talking, maybe not. But if I want to create a report, I want it to look nice. Luckily, there’s this tool called Google Data Studio. And oh my, I love it!

What’s Google Data Studio?

If I’d had to explain what it is: Google Data Studio is a tool in which you can visualize your data. You can connect all types of data to Google Data Studio, like Google Sheets, you can upload CSV files and…..drumroll Google Analytics! And it connects really really easy with Google Analytics.

Google Data Studio Data Connectors

You can create all sorts of reports with nice graphs, charts, and tables, bringing your data to life. I’m not thoroughly going to cover every aspect of Google Data Studio, you can use Google for that. But my goal for this post is that you’re going to give Google Data Studio a try and create a nice report with more than two dimensions!

Connect Google Analytics to Google Data Studio

In order to get Google Analytics data in Google Data Studio, you need to make a connection between the two. The only requirement is that you have a Google Analytics account and a Google Data Studio account. Since they’re both Google products, this connection is easy to set up. And therefore shouldn’t hold you back from trying Google Data Studio. The steps are explained in this post about connecting your Google Analytics account.

Add data source to report in Google Data Studio

Recreate the Source/Medium report in Google Data Studio

When I first tried Google Data Studio, I was surprised how intuitively this tool was. The first thing I did to get more familiar with the data tool was to recreate one of my favorite reports in Google Analytics: the Source / Medium report. You start with adding a chart, in this case, a table.

Adding a chart in Google Data Studio

It automatically adds Source and Sessions. Cool thing is that the distinction between dimensions and metrics is immediately visible. The dimensions are green, the metrics are blue. It’s very cool to see the wide range of dimensions and metrics Google Analytics has to offer.

If you click on ‘Source’ you can replace that dimension by scrolling through the dimensions or if you already know the name of the dimension, by typing the name in the search field. The same goes for metrics. To recreate the Source / Medium report, we need to add a couple of metrics.  

  • Dimension: Source / Medium
  • Metric: Users
  • Metric: New users
  • Metric: Sessions
  • Metric: Bounce Rate
  • Metric: Pages / Session
  • Metric: Avg. Session Duration
  • Metric: Goal Conversion Rate (or Ecommerce Conversion Rate)
  • Metric: Goal completions (or Transactions)
  • Metric: Goal value (or Revenue)

Since we have an online shop, I’m adding the Ecommerce metrics to my report:

Recreating the Source / Medium report in Google Data Studio

And there you go! You’ve just recreated the Source / Medium report in Google Data Studio. And this is exciting already of course because you just witnessed for yourself how easy it can be. But now, we’re going to add some cool to this report.

Customize that report

If you use UTM tagging and use campaign, content and term tags, you can add all of these in a report! Give it a try. Your first reaction might be that it would be awesome to have all that information in one table. But you’ll quickly see that your report becomes too cluttered and obscure.

Adding a lot of dimensions to your Google Data Studio report

If you want data to speak for itself then reports must be readable. So adding a lot of dimensions to your reports is not something you want. Think about on what levels you want to see your data. If you want to see just your traffic from search engines there’s no need to see data from other traffic sources right?

In which cases would you like to see more than two dimensions? I love the combination of Source and Landing page. And even more so the combination of Source, Landing page and Campaign to check how my marketing campaigns are doing. Other dimensions that are insightful is Device category, Source and Landing page. Or Region, Source and Landing page. Or if you’re more international, like us, Country, Source and Landing page.

Several dimensions in one Google Data Studio report

Add some fun

Google Data Studio offers filters that easily allow you to specify your data even further. And I’m a fan of specifying your data because it gives you so much more context. You can add Source as a filter, Medium, Campaign, Country, you name it, you can filter it. Make sure it makes sense though. For me, this is such an awesome feature of Google Data Studio!

Adding filters to your Google Data Studio

You can also add a date range filter, which allows you to adjust the date range to your own likings. This makes sure that your dashboard isn’t just a one-time thing, but a dynamic dashboard you can use at all times.

The first thing I always do when I create a report is adding the date range filter. And I really sit down and think about what kind of filters I want. I sometimes even draw out the report I’d like to see by hand on a piece of paper and then create it in Google Data Studio.

There are some cool features that you can add in the table itself. For instance, you can add heatmaps to your columns so that you can easily spot rows that stand out from others.

Adding heatmaps in Google Data Studio

You can even compare date ranges so you can see if you’ve gotten, for example, more sessions from a particular source. And you can give it all the colors and fonts you want, keep the readability in mind though!

Adding date range comparison in Google Data Studio

Conclusion

Starting with Google Data Studio is not as hard as you might think. And for me, it allows me to have more fun with Google Analytics data. If you catch yourself spending time on building the same reports, or adding the same secondary dimensions over and over again, it might be a good idea to just as well create that report in Google Data Studio. It will save you time and the cool thing is that you can share your report with others.

Read more: Learn how to create a Google Search Console dashboard »

The post Create your first report in Google Data Studio appeared first on Yoast.

WordPress SEO: the definitive guide

A tutorial to higher rankings for WordPress sites

This is the original WordPress SEO article since 2008, fully updated for 2020!

WordPress is one of the best content management systems when it comes to SEO. But even though it gets a lot right “out of the box”, there’s much more that you can do to improve your performance.

New to WordPress? Our FREE WordPress for beginners training is here to help. Find out how to set up your own site, learn the ins and outs of creating and maintaining it, and more. This training is part of our free training subscription, take a look at all our online SEO training subscriptions!

Optimizing your site using the tactics and best practices outlined in this article will help you improve your rankings, gain more subscribers or sales, and have a better website in general.

Because you should ingrain proper SEO in all aspects of your online marketing and PR, this guide covers quite a lot of ground! It’s a long read, so feel free to use the table of contents below to jump around.

Before we start…

This article assumes that you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, which adds significantly more features and SEO tools to WordPress. If you’re not already using it, you can set it up right away with our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO.

If you’re using another SEO plugin, most of the principles will still apply. Of course, we’d prefer you to switch over and make use of our potent WordPress SEO plugin, which is why we’ve written a migration guide for you. It’s a straightforward process!

Table of Contents

1. Get your basic WordPress SEO right

Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well-optimized content management system. A basic setup can provide a strong foundation — even without extensive customization, theme optimization, and plugins. That said, there are a few things you should do to increase your chances of ranking, refine your workflow, and make sure your website is perfectly optimized.

By putting the right basic settings in place, and applying a few simple techniques, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation to build upon!

1.1. Check your health

Before you make any changes to your site, it is a good idea to see where you are now. There’s a lot to gain from getting it right: running your website on a server with updated software at a web host that offers excellent performance. So ask yourself: on what hardware and software are your sites running? What is your hosting plan? Are you using a budget shared hosting provider, or have you invested in a dedicated hosting plan at a well-known web host that fine-tuned its servers for use with WordPress?

To find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your site, you can visit the Site Health section in WordPress. Also, you could choose to install the Health Check plugin. This plugin gives you loads of technical insights and helps you get information that outside parties can use to help you improve your site. Eventually, all features of the Health Check plugin will move to WordPress core.

Site Health gives you an overview of how your site is doing

1.1.1 Check you’re using suitable hosting

According to WordPress’s technical requirements page, the recommended hosting plan to run WordPress should include a modern version of PHP, MySQL or MariaDB, and HTTPS support. It is possible to work with older server software, but that is not recommended. If you check your Site Health, you can see the technical details of your installation. In addition, if you open the dashboard of your hosting provider, you should be able to see what type of plan you are on.

Remember, paying for good WordPress hosting pays dividends.

1.1.2. Upgrade to PHP 7.0 or higher

Many WordPress sites still run on outdated versions of PHP. One look at the WordPress stats reveals that around 25% of the sites still run on a PHP version in the 5 series, while PHP 7.0 and up have been available for years.

Backward compatibility is cool and all, but it’s holding back WordPress as a technology and site owners from getting the most out of their sites. These old versions of PHP don’t receive any more security fixes and are thus increasingly vulnerable to attacks.

Luckily, the WordPress team has dropped support for anything older than PHP 5.6. Today, the project recommends running WordPress on at least PHP 7.3.

So, one of the most important things you can do to improve the performance and security of your site is upgrading your hosting environment to a modern version of PHP. There are a lot of benefits to this:

  • PHP 7 offers an incredible speed boost.
  • It runs a lot more efficiently, meaning less stress on your server.
  • Bring loads of modern development features.
  • It’s a much safer and more secure environment.
  • It’s future proof.

Now, this is something we all want, right? If you’ve checked your current hosting set-up in the previous section, you have an idea of what your site runs on now. If this shows outdated server software like PHP 5.5, it is a good idea to update this, if possible.

However, take special care before doing so. Ask for help if you’re not sure what you are doing.

Here are some steps to take:

  • (Always!) Backup your website.
  • Make a local staging environment based on a modern version of PHP.
  • Install the backup of your site on that server.
  • Test thoroughly to see if everything works properly.
  • Upgrade your live site — most of the times, your hosting provider can do this for you.

We have a post that shows you how to set up a test environment for your WordPress site. WordPress.org has a post on the advantages of updating your PHP version and what to take into consideration when doing that.

1.1.3. Make sure you’re using SSL and HTTPS

Historically, adopting SSL (getting an HTTPS URL, and a green padlock icon in the browser URL bar) was an optional tactic. Many sites, arguably, didn’t need the extra level of security that SSL provides.

Now, however, having a valid SSL certificate installed is mandatory — search engines may ‘penalize’ sites without valid SSL certificates and setups (and/or show warnings next to their search results). It’s also generally good practice for all websites to use SSL to prevent hackers and third parties from intercepting requests and data.

Additionally, many modern site speed and performance techniques require a valid SSL/HTTPS setup. To take advantage of new, faster web technologies like HTTP/2, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox require the website to have a valid SSL certificate.

If you want to move to SSL and ensure that your site is served correctly over HTTPS, we have a handy guide with tips & tricks for moving to HTTPS.

1.2. Check your site settings

It’s worth spending some time clicking through all of the sections in the WordPress Settings menu, as many of the options there can impact the SEO of your WordPress site.

In particular, it’s worth double-checking your visibility settings in Settings → Reading, to make sure that you’re not accidentally preventing search engines from indexing your website. That’d definitely hurt your visibility!

You should also make sure that your Writing and Reading settings are all set correctly, these control your default categories, and what should be displayed on your homepage. Don’t forget to give your site a strong tagline in Settings → General, too!

Your permalink settings define what format your page and post URLs will take, which can have a big impact on SEO. So if you’re creating a new site, one of the first things you should do is change your permalink settings, which you can find in Settings → Permalinks.

If you don’t change your settings from the default, all of your pages and posts will have URLs which look like example.com/?p=123. Whilst this is perfectly okay, it’s not particularly nice, and it might impact how users and search engines perceive the quality and relevance of your pages.

Changing the permalink structure alters the components, ordering, and structure of your website’s URLs. It’s important to select the right structure when initially setting up your website, as changing it later can cause SEO issues.

We usually recommend that people use a structure which creates URLs which look like example.com/post-name/, or example.com/category/post-name/, depending on how much importance they anticipate placing on the categorization of their content. For most WordPress sites, choosing either of these options will be perfectly suitable.

For the first option, you can just change the permalink setting to /%postname%/, like so:

Changing the permalink settings to ‘Post name’, in Settings → Permalinks

To include the category, you can select “Custom Structure” and change the value to /%category%/%postname%/.

If you previously had ?p=<postid> as your permalink, WordPress will take care of all the redirects for you. This is also true if you change from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/.

If you have an established site and change from any other permalink structure, you might want to consult our article on changing your WordPress permalink structure and the tool that you’ll find within it.

1.3.1. Choose WWW or non-WWW

You need to think about what you want your site to show up as www.example.com, or simply example.com. Make sure that in your general settings, in Settings → General, the version you want to show up is properly reflected:

Setting the site URL to include or omit ‘www’

From an SEO perspective, there’s little difference either way. Additionally, most hosting and server setups will automatically redirect requests for the ‘wrong’ version, to the version you’ve selected. That makes this primarily a branding consideration — which approach feels best for your site?

From a technical perspective, there’s not a huge amount of difference, either. Some setups might have some minor headaches if they omit the ‘www’ component, but these are increasingly rare.

2. Optimize your content

Your site should provide the best content on your chosen subject — period. People are looking for engaging, authoritative articles and trustworthy answers to their questions. Writing high-quality content for your WordPress site begins with your unique ideas or distinctive take on a particular topic. But it also means presenting these ideas in a well-structured and accessible manner. Together, this will help you attract the audience you’re looking for and keep them engaged.

2.1. Research what your users want and need

Curious about the WordPress block editor?

Still haven’t tried the new block editor? Tried, but found it confusing? We’re here to help: our free WordPress block editor course explains everything you need to know!

Before writing your content, you should think about what search terms you want to be found for. You should optimize every page or post for a specific keyphrase.

But how can you determine what keyphrase you want to be found for? To find out, you need to do keyword research. In this process, you should ask yourself questions such as: what terms do I want to rank for? How realistic is that I can rank for these terms?

Imagine you have a baking blog and you’re passionate about sharing your favorite recipes and baking techniques. Optimizing a post for a term such as [best cake recipe] isn’t such a realistic goal, because it’s a very general term. There’s a lot of competition for such general terms. Instead, you should think about finding your own niche. This niche could be [healthy, low-sugar cake recipes] or [French patisserie you can make at home].

Within a niche, you can become an expert. Your expertise enables you to create content that goes beyond that of your competitors. You can go deeper than others, or shed light on different angles of the same topic. For this, you’ll want to focus on long-tail keyphrases. A long-tail keyphrase might be [how to make a low-calorie vegan blueberry cheesecake]. A keyphrase like this is more specific, and therefore easier to rank for. Also, it’ll be more suitable for your specific niche topic.

It’s also essential to think about what your audience wants to achieve by searching for a specific term. This is called search intent. For example, they could be looking for the answer to a particular question, and you can provide the necessary information. Or they might want to buy a specific product that you can offer them. Think about the needs of your visitors and address them by creating content accordingly.

Need a hand doing keyword research properly? Our Keyword research training can help. This course is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription

2.2. Write great content for your users

After you’ve done your keyword research and you know the topics you want to write about, you need to get to the actual writing. Most of the time that’s easier said than done. To get from an idea to a great piece of content, most likely you’ll have to follow a cycle of drafting, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Your first draft can just be an outline of your structure. You don’t have to write out everything in perfect prose at this point, but make sure that you follow a logical structure. For most pieces, that will include an introduction, your main points of argument, and a conclusion. Of course, this will vary per genre – a recipe will have a completely different structure.

You can flesh out the points further in the writing phase, where you try to come up with a first complete version of your text. Finally, in the editing phase, you should check whether your piece is engaging and easy to read. You might be an expert on your topic, but your audience probably isn’t (yet). So try to make your writing as accessible as possible. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a friend or colleague for some feedback. Another helpful trick is to read your text out loud to yourself. You can even let your computer speak it. It will give you a better idea of whether everything flows nicely.

2.3. Optimize your individual posts & pages

When writing or editing your post, there are a number of elements you need to pay special attention to in order to make it SEO-friendly. These elements include your subheadings, your title, and your meta description. All of these need to reflect the topic of the specific post.

Don’t forget, SEO-friendly doesn’t just mean that it’s easy for a search engine to grasp the topic of a page. More importantly, it means that your visitors can get the gist of your page at a single glance.

Your meta description and your title might be a deciding factor for whether visitors click on your page in the search results in the first place. And once they’ve visited your site, elements like subheadings can be critical for visitors to decide whether they want to stay on your site.

2.3.1. Set your focus keyphrase(s)

One important rule is not to use a focus keyphrase on more than one page. Otherwise, you might end up cannibalizing yourself. Most of the time, you don’t want to rank for multiple pages on the same keyphrase, because it means that you’re setting yourself up as your own competition.

It’s also important to include the focus keyphrase in crucial elements of your post, such as the title, the introduction, your subheadings, and your meta description.

All of these elements are signals for what your post is about. Since your focus keyphrase is, in fact, the main topic of your page, it’s a logical consequence that you should make sure this topic is reflected in all of these elements.

The same logic holds for your text overall: you need to make sure that you don’t stray off-topic; if you stay on-topic, it should follow naturally that you use your keyphrase multiple times throughout your text. But avoid stuffing your writing with your keyphrase just for the sake of it. If you find it hard to include your keyphrase in your text a sufficient number of times, it might be a sign that you should take a different approach to the topic.

To avoid repetition, you can use synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same or more or less the same as your keyphrase. An example of this is the words film and movie. Search engines will recognize that they have the same meaning, which you can also check by having a look at the search results: if you search for movie, film will also be highlighted in the results, and vice versa.

You can also make use of related keyphrases to optimize a single page for similar, related terms. You can use these to give context to your keyphrase. For example, if your keyphrase is [pumpkin soup] your related keyphrase might be [winter weeknight dinners]. This second, broader term gives additional information about your topic. It can also create coherence by establishing a link to similar pages on your post.

The Yoast SEO Premium analysis makes it easier to optimize your post thanks to word forms, synonyms, and related keyphrases.

2.3.2. Optimize your permalink

In most cases, your post’s URL should probably contain your focus keyphrase, so that it’s obvious what your page is about from the link. That said, you should always try and keep your permalinks short, descriptive, and clean — don’t put unnecessary words in for the sake of it!

Before you publish new posts or pages, you may also wish to consider removing ‘function words‘ from your permalink. These are words like “a”, “and”, and “the”. When done carefully, this may make your permalinks more readable, and easier to use or link to. Posts with especially long titles may benefit from this approach.

For posts that you’ve have already published, we’d recommend being careful when changing permalinks. If people have already linked to your pages, changing the URLs may make a mess. Even though WordPress will sometimes redirect users to the new location (the redirect manager in Yoast SEO Premium handles this automatically, and more reliably), changing URLs can impact performance.

2.3.3. Optimize your page title

Each page’s title — the contents of the HTML <title> tag — can be one of the most important factors for ranking well in search results. Not only is it the literal title of the tab or browser window, but it’s also the first line people see in the search results. It describes what your page is, or is about, and acts as an advert which encourages users to click.

On many websites, the default structure for posts and pages isn’t necessarily the most optimal approach for SEO. A title like “My blog » Cooking » Carbonara recipe” isn’t as compelling or effective as “My 20-minute delicious carbonara recipe | My Blog”.

You must think about the structure of your titles, as well as the content of the title on each page. Typically, it’s worth considering that:

  • Search engines may put more weight on the early words — so trying to get your keywords near the start of the title might make you more likely to rank well.
  • People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.
The Google Preview in Yoast SEO gives you an idea of how your post will look in search engines. Use it to make your content stand out!

For more info on how to create enticing titles for your posts, read our article on crafting good titles for SEO.

Did you know? You can use Yoast SEO to structure your titles!

You can control the default structure of your page titles and descriptions in your Yoast SEO plugin. There are two parts of the plugin that control these. First of all, as soon as you install and activate the plugin, you get an ‘SEO’ section in your WordPress admin.

Navigate to SEO → Search Appearance and you’ll see a bunch of tabs for different types of pages on your site.

For each post type and taxonomy, you can set a so-called Title Template — as well as meta description templates. For posts on our site this looks like this:

Here are yoast.com’s settings for the individual Post URLs

This allows you to use components and variables to control how your page titles should behave by default. Of course, these can be overridden on a page-by-page basis.

For example, in the image above, you can see how we’re automatically grabbing elements like the title of the page, to stop us from having to manually write titles from scratch for every page.

There are all sorts of variables you can use in the titles and meta description, and they’re all listed and explained in the help tab on the page.

For advanced users, there are some additional cool features. For instance, you can use cf_<custom field name> to drop in any custom field — either from a post meta value or a user meta value.

NOTE: When you use these templates, be sure to check that your title tags behave as expected when viewed on the site. If they don’t, you may have a problem with the way your theme is built, and you might need to check the “Force rewrite” checkbox in our options. You can also follow these instructions to modify your templates.

2.3.4. Use headings correctly

Headings are great for structuring your content and helping readers process information in bite-sized chunks. They can also help describe a page’s layout and focus to search engines.

WordPress transforms the headings you put in your content into their respective HTML tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> and so on). That makes it important to think about which type of headings you use, and in which order. Getting that wrong can make your content harder to understand.

Although most themes for WordPress get the basics right, it’s worth making sure that your template sets your post title is an <h1> tag, and that you’re not using <h1> tags anywhere else on your page or in your post content.

Your post content should then ‘flow’ naturally; for example, large, significant headings should use <h2> tags, subsections should use <h3> tags, and then subsequent new sections should use <h2>.

To learn more about why proper headings are important, please read this article on headings and SEO. In addition, you can read our article about the heading structure for your blog — from which a lot applies to non-blog WordPress sites too. For an explanation on how to use them read the post on how to use headers on your site.

2.3.5. Optimize your meta description

We don’t recommend automated descriptions

Some themes and plugins try to produce descriptions automatically, by taking the first sentence or so of a post. This is a clever shortcut, but it rarely produces good descriptions. The first sentence of a post is often introductory information, which doesn’t provide a great summary or an enticing advert!

The only well-written description is a handwritten one, and if you’re thinking of auto-generating the meta description, you might as well not do anything, and let the search engine pick and control the snippet.

NOTE: Search engines may choose to ignore your meta description if they think that it’s unsuitable for the page, or they might choose to show a custom description from the page content if they think it’s a better fit. There’s no way of forcing them to use your specific snippet.

A meta description is primarily used search engines to show a description of your page in the search engine results, usually below your page title.

Tailoring and writing a descriptive meta description can encourage users to click your results in the search engine, even if you’re not necessarily ranking in the top position. It’s an advert, and your opportunity to impress.

Writing compelling, informative descriptions of your page content for every page on your site is best practice and gives you the opportunity to attract more visits.

Whilst it might feel like a lot of work to craft descriptions for every single page and post, it’s worth the effort.

If you don’t provide a meta description, the search engine will generally try to find the keyword which was searched for in your page, and automatically pick a string around that — and highlight the searched phrase in bold in the results page.

Automatically generated snippets (whether by plugins, or search engines) are rarely as descriptive or as compelling as hand-written ones. So, we recommend that you use the meta description field you find in the Yoast SEO plugin to write a meta description. Make sure it entices the reader to click through and make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once.

2.3.6. Optimize your images and media

An often overlooked part of WordPress SEO is how you handle your images, videos, and media content. To make sure that search engines can understand your images, you need to think about how you name and format your files. Writing descriptive accessible text descriptions helps, too, and can improve your performance significantly. As an added benefit, you’re also helping out readers who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers.

Using the proper alt attributes for images, and transcripts of videos are also something that we check in the content analysis functionality of our Yoast SEO plugin. We have a longer article on image SEO and one writing alt tags, which can give you more tips to fine-tune your image optimization!

2.4. Maintain your content quality

2.4.1 Keep your content fresh and up to date

As Google strives to show its users the best and up to date information, you should keep track of your content and revise it regularly. Even more so, because you don’t want to show the visitors of your website outdated, redundant or incorrect information.

If you publish regularly and have hundreds, or even thousands, of blog posts, this is easier said than done. That’s why we’d advise focusing on two specific areas when it comes to content maintenance: updating cornerstone content and preventing keyword cannibalization.

2.4.2. Update your cornerstone content

Some pages on your site are more important than others. The most valuable content of your site is called cornerstone content. We’ve written extensively about cornerstone articles and how they can improve your rankings.

In short, these posts or pages:

  • contain essential information for your audience;
  • are complete, up-to-date and well-written;
  • show authority;
  • get the most links from related posts within your own site;
  • rank higher than your other articles on the same topic;
  • get most organic traffic to your site.

When you’re in doubt where to start with updating your site’s content, always give priority to your cornerstone content. Your business relies on them, and they should never go stale!

2.4.3. No outdated cornerstones with Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO makes it a little easier to keep your cornerstones up to date at all times. If you use Yoast SEO on your site, you can mark a post as a cornerstone article. In doing so, these articles will undergo a more rigorous SEO analysis. In addition, they’ll appear in a separate list in your post overview, which makes it easy to browse through them and check if they’re still up to scratch.

If you’re on Yoast SEO Premium, keeping track of them is even easier. The Stale cornerstone content filter only shows your cornerstone articles that haven’t been updated in the last 6 months. You’ll find this filter in your post overview. If it doesn’t show any posts you’re good, and if there are one or more posts in it, make sure you check and update them!

Here are yoast.com’s settings for the individual Post URLs
Yoast SEO Premium keeps track of your cornerstone content and warns when they go stale

2.4.4. Keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization means you’re eating away your own rankings by creating too many articles for the same or similar keywords. If you have a dozen articles on the same topic, search engines don’t know which one of those they should rank highest. As a result, you’ll be competing with your own articles for a high position in the search engines.

If you publish frequently, as we do at Yoast, you’re bound to run into keyword cannibalization issues someday. That’s why we’ve created a framework on how to deal with keyword cannibalism. In short, you’ll have to:

  • Find out for which keywords it’s happening;
  • Analyze which content performs best for those keywords;
  • Keep the best performing posts;
  • Decide if you should merge the other posts into the better performing one;
  • Or just delete and redirect them.

Check out this detailed guide on how to fix keyword cannibilization issues on your site to learn how to go about this.

2.5. Avoid accidental duplicate content

2.5.1. What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content issues arise when search engines encounter multiple URLs with the same or very similar content. As a result, search engines don’t know which of these URLs to rank higher, resulting in lower rankings for all of them.  

In the previous section, we’ve already addressed keyword cannibalization, which is caused by writing about the same topic too often. But most of the times, the root of duplicate content is technical and can happen without you even noticing.

For instance, some content management systems add session IDs or parameters for tracking to URLs. Or, you might have www and non-www versions of a certain page indexed. Accordingly, you’ll have multiple URLs showing the exact same content.

Besides the technical reasons, your articles can get scraped or copied by other parties. So, there are many different causes for duplicate content, as you can read in this extensive article on duplicate content.

If you want to find out if your site suffers from duplicate content, you can use these duplicate content tools to check your site for issues.

2.5.2. Solutions for duplicate content

How you should solve your duplicate content issue depends on the cause of the issue. In general, there are three ways to go about this — in order of preference:

  • Whenever possible, avoid creating duplicate content. If your system creates session IDs in the URL, try to turn that off, for instance.
  • Can’t avoid creating them? 301 redirect those URLs to the original version.
  • Really need to keep a duplicate article? Make sure to add a canonical link to the original version in the <head> section of the duplicate article. It will show search engines what the original version of the article is, so they can pass the link juice on to the original version. In the next section you’ll find out how easy this is with Yoast SEO.

If you want to learn how to solve specific duplicate content issues, check out Joost’s ultimate guide on causes and solutions for duplicate content.

2.5.3. Set a canonical link with Yoast SEO

With Yoast SEO, it’s very easy to add a canonical link to a post or page. No need for a developer! Just go to the Advanced tab in the Yoast SEO metabox below your post or page. There, you’ll find the Canonical URL field where you can enter the URL of the original article — the one you want to point search engines to:  

Fill in your canonical URL in the advanced section of the Yoast SEO metabox

If you don’t set a canonical, Yoast SEO will set a self-referencing canonical for you. This means that the article will point to itself. Learn why self-referencing canonicals are beneficial for SEO.

2.6. Support international audiences

To optimize your site for audiences in several countries or language regions, you’ll need to optimize both your content and your technical setup. Let’s start with the content aspects of international SEO.

Doing targeted keyword research and writing fresh content for each audience is crucial. Take items of clothing, for example. An American vest is a completely different garment from a British vest, or a Dutch vest, or a French vest, or a Spanish vest… you get the point. We don’t recommend using automated translations. Invest time and resources in proper research and translations with which to optimize your keywords and copy.

Another important aspect of international SEO is picking the right domain structure. Generally, a different ccTLD (e.g. www.yoast.de) for every variation is only a good option for very large companies with big budgets. In most cases, subdirectories (e.g. www.yoast.com/de) are the way to go.

Search engines want to display the right language version of your site to each visitor, whatever country they’re from. To help them, you need to implement hreflang. hreflang is code that tells the search engines what language variations of a page are available and helps prevent duplicate content problems. It’s quite a complex piece of code, but our hreflang guide helps you along the way — or, you can take our Multilingual SEO training. This course is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription

2.7. Add schema structured data

Structured data is kind of like a dictionary for search engines. By describing your content in code, you can make it instantly clear what that particular piece of content is about. Plus, you can describe who wrote it, on what site it was published and when. Also, if this article featured recipe, FAQ or how-to content, for instance, you could let search engines know about this. This way, search engines get a better understanding of your site. In return, they can use this to help your site get rich results.

Structured data is essential in this day and age. It used to be hard to add structured data to your site, but with structured data in Yoast SEO, we set out to make it easy. Today, we generate the code search engines need to make sense of your site and its connections automatically. You only need to make a couple of choices in SEO > Search Appearance. Select Person if your site is a personal site or Organization if it is a business or professional site. Don’t forget to pick or upload the correct logo or avatar.

That’s not all: you can also quickly build specific types of content pages with our structured data blocks. These blocks work in the block editor and at the moment, we have two types: for FAQs and how-tos. These blocks help you visually build the content, while generating valid structured data in the background.

Pick Person or Organization to get Yoast SEO to automatically generate the correct structured data

3. Optimize your site structure

A solid site structure helps your users and the search engines navigate your site. On top of that, it will make clear what pages on your website are most important. There are two pillars to a good site structure: organizing your site and contextual internal linking.

3.1. Organize your site

Organizing your site will help you set up a navigation path from your homepage right to your individual posts and pages, and back. Adding categories and subcategories will bring order to chaos. Ideally, your site should be organized as such:

The ideal site structure should follow a strict hierarchy

You should always make sure your homepage is clear and easy to navigate. Cluttering the homepage with too many options will make your site more difficult to understand. Adding a clear menu and breadcrumbs helps your user navigate your site wherever they are.

3.2. Connect your content with contextual internal linking

Besides organizing your site, you need to link up your content within your copy. We call this contextual internal linking because these links always appear within the context of a text.

Contextual internal links set up a network of pages, which points your users to related content. In a post on keyword research, for example, linking to an article on SEO copywriting makes a lot of sense. For search engines, these links provide insight into how pages are related to each other as well.

Always make sure that the number of links to a page reflects the importance of that page. Our ultimate guides get a lot of links from individual posts about related topics. This helps users and search engines understand that these guides are crucial pillars of our site.

When adding a contextual internal link, make sure the link makes sense within the context of the current page. Moreover, always use anchor texts which accurately describe the page you’re linking to. This provides users and search engines with the context they need to assess whether the link is useful. The internal linking tool in Yoast SEO Premium helps you connect your content by suggesting relevant links.

3.3. Manage your categories and tags

WordPress has two default ways of structuring your content: categories and tags. Categories add hierarchy to your content and group topics broadly. On a website about cooking, pasta could be a category. Tags are non-hierarchical and can be used to describe your post in more detail. Dinner party themes, for example, could be a tag.

When setting up your site structure, pick a number of main categories. Adding them to your menu can be a good idea, especially if you only have a blog. If you have a blog and several products, a different setup might make more sense. Make sure your categories are roughly the same size. If your categories become too big, make subcategories. Your category pages can be great landing pages, especially for eCommerce sites.

Tags are useful for users exploring topics, but they are often misapplied. It’s important not to use too many tags, and to use them more than once or twice. Remember, you want to group your content, not just give it a description.

If you want to structure your content differently, WordPress also allows you to create custom taxonomies. Always consider carefully whether your custom taxonomy groups content in a way that makes sense and helps your visitors.

3.4. Manage your archive pages

If you use categories and tags, you will automatically create archive pages. These pages contain a list of the posts and pages within a certain category or tag. Besides categories and tags, there are date-based archive pages and author archives. These archive pages need managing because they cause SEO problems if you don’t.

First of all, you want to prevent search engines from indexing archive pages that don’t make sense on your site. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin for this. You do this under SEO → Search Appearance, where you’ll find the following options on the “Archives” tab:

Manage your archives in Yoast SEO

The settings above are the settings for our site. As you can see, we’ve disabled the date-based archives, as we don’t use those. Any date-based link will redirect to our homepage because of this setting. We’ve left the author archives untouched, but we have set the subpages of those archives to be noindex, follow by default. This way, you’ll never land on page two of an archive on our site from the search engines.

If your blog is a one-author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use Yoast SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date-based archive: disable it as we have. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO…

There is one type of archive that is noindex,follow by default in the Yoast SEO plugin: your own internal search function result pages. This is a best practice from Google.

3.4.1. Pagination

If you have lots of posts on your WordPress site, you might want to think about how your pagination looks and works. Otherwise, you might find that your best content is ‘buried’ deep in your site, and users and search engines may struggle to find it. You should also consider customizing how your pagination looks and works so that it’s a bit more helpful for users and search engines. We really recommend checking out the WP-PageNavi plugin!

You’ll probably want to add breadcrumbs to your posts and pages. Breadcrumbs are the links, usually above the title post, that looks like “Home > SEO blog > WordPress SEO“. Breadcrumbs are good for two things:

  • They allow your users to easily navigate your site.
  • They allow search engines to determine the structure of your site more easily.

These breadcrumbs should link back to the homepage, and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories it should pick one.

To get breadcrumb navigation to show you on your pages, you may need to adapt your single.php and page.php files in your theme, and include the code for breadcrumbs from the Yoast SEO plugin. You find the settings and instructions on how to do that in the SEO → Search Appearance section.

3.6. Manage your HTML & XML sitemaps

You can use XML sitemaps to tell Google and the other search engines that your site has been updated. Our WordPress SEO plugin automatically configures your XML sitemaps, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We generate sitemaps for your different post types, including your images, and make sure that it generates and loads really quickly.

We intelligently split your sitemaps up into smaller bits, so Google only has to fetch one new XML “sub”-sitemap when a post is published.

You can check and manage which types of your content, archives, and templates should be included in your XML sitemaps in your SEO → Search Appearance settings. Content types which are set to not show in search results will be automatically excluded from your XML sitemaps.

Lastly, our XML sitemaps support has a pretty complete API, allowing developers to add or change functionality through their plugins and themes. Our own Local SEO, News SEO and Video SEO extensions (which generate their own, specific sitemaps) are built on this API, and, other plugins frequently build their own solutions on top of our system.

For larger or more complex sites, it might make sense to provide an HTML sitemap, too. This is a normal page on your website, which helps users navigate to deeper or more specific content.

4. Speed up your WordPress website

If your website is slow, you risk frustrating your users. That makes them less likely to engage, browse, convert, or visit again. That, in turn, can make them less likely to share your content, link to your pages, or recommend your brand. In short, speed is an important part of WordPress SEO, and a huge part of the overall user experience. That means that it’s critical to measure and manage your performance — especially for users on mobile or slower connections!

4.1. Measure your site speed

Measuring the speed of your site can be confusing. Different tools give different scores and results, and sometimes even give conflicting information. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide on how to measure your speed — it’ll walk you through the basics of picking the right metrics, to using the right tools for the job when it comes to monitoring and diagnosing issues.

4.2. Improve your site speed

Once you’ve identified what and where your bottlenecks are, the next challenge is to make hosting, theme, plugin and performance tweaks to speed things up.

Page speed optimization is a discipline in its own right and spans well-beyond WordPress SEO. That means that the biggest opportunities will vary from site to site, and situation to situation. For some sites, the easiest wins might come from changing hosting or utilizing a CDN; for others, it might mean re-assessing their use of plugins, or, altering how they load CSS and JavaScript.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t get started, though. We’ve put together a guide on some page speed tools and easy wins that you can use to get the ball rolling.

5. Secure your WordPress website

WordPress is the most-used platform for website management in the world. It powers 37% of the web (June 2020). While that is awesome, it also means that WordPress is the most targeted platform for hackers. When running a WordPress website, basic security is dealt with by the platform, but there are things you can do yourselves to make your website more secure.

That starts with your own login. The default username in WordPress is admin, so change that first. Otherwise, a hacker’s first guess for your username is just too easy. The same goes for your password. Passwords like 123456 and welcome01 are just not enough. Use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass and pick a 20+ character password instead. WordPress also has a number of plugins for two-factor verification, so adding that to your website is easy as pie as well. Do it.

There is more you can do, of course, please read our article detailing WordPress security in a few easy steps. We’ll highlight some of the recommendations below.

5.1. Make regular backups

The next thing we’d like you to do is create regular backups. In case your site gets hacked, or something else goes wrong — for instance, when updating a plugin or theme —, it’s important that you revert that change in a heartbeat. Regular backups make sure that this can be done.

In WordPress, there is a wide range of backup options to choose from. Several plugin developers have created nice software solutions for you, so you don’t have the technical hassle of that backup. At Yoast, we recommend and have good experiences with the Blogvault backup solution. That service has additional benefits like creating staging sites and easy migration options.

5.2. Harden your setup

Hardening your setup starts with picking the right hosting company for your WordPress website. That’s just the start, as every host will do its best to help you out, but it’ll still be your responsibility to harden your setup. Also, tools like Cloudflare are good friends for any company/website in this.

An easy first step is to limit login attempts. By limiting the number of times people can try to login to your website — closing your login form after five false logins, for example — you are hardening your install against brute force attacks and other malicious acts targeting that form.

The next thing you need to do is to make sure that your WordPress install, including plugins and themes, is always up-to-date. Updates might fix security issues as well. Make sure to check regularly for updates, and keep your WordPress install up-to-date.

Another important thing to realize is that you are dealing with security every time you add a new user or writer to your WordPress install. There’s an article in the WordPress Codex regarding Roles and Capabilities you should read. It comes down to giving permissions only to those that need it when they need it and only for the time they need it. No need to give a guest blogger administrative rights to your website, right?

Authentication Keys and Salts work in conjunction with each other to protect your cookies and passwords in transit between the browser and web server. Make sure to change these keys when installing a new WordPress instance.

Another easy fix that we’d like to mention is to make sure your template files can’t be edited from the WordPress backend. You can do this in AppearanceEditor. When a hacker managed to get passed your login form, this is really the easiest way to add evil code to your website. Hardening this involves changing your wp-config file.

5.3. Use monitoring and logging

Security is an ongoing process. You need to keep a keen eye on any breaches and keep your website as secure as possible. You could put part of your WordPress security in the hands of, for instance, a company like Sucuri. In case of a hack, they’ll fix this asap. For your own monitoring, you could check your site on a regular basis with their Sitecheck tool. There are a couple of plugins that can help you secure your WordPress site by, for instance, monitor files on your server, like WordFence, iThemes or Sucuri. Pick your plugin of choice, as long as you make sure that security is monitored.

It can also be useful to just keep track of everything that’s happening on your website like file changes and logged in users. There are several plugins and tools for that as well, like WP Security Audit Log. Keeping track of these things makes sure that you can find irregularities in your install and act on these, or find what happened when in case of a security issue.

6. Cater to your mobile visitors

Take one look around and you’ll notice that our mobile devices are becoming the de facto way of browsing the web, even when we’re at home, lying on our couch. We visit mobile websites. You, as a website owner, need to cater to your mobile visitors.

According to Statcounter, mobile market share surpassed desktop market share almost all of 2018. This means that if you are only optimizing for desktop visitors, you are not optimizing for the majority of your visitors. Of course, it depends on your specific niche, since those numbers could be different. Google Analytics can give you the exact numbers for your site.

With a mobile market share like this, there is no way you can consider your mobile website an ‘extra’. Maybe it’s time to make mobile the default. It’s time for mobile SEO.

6.1. Make sure your theme is mobile-friendly

After making sure that your site is fast, make sure your website, or rather your theme, is mobile-friendly. Making your website mobile-friendly starts with making sure the links are not too close together, and buttons are easily clickable. Your font should be consistent and shouldn’t be too small and your images not too big, both in file size and dimensions.

We’d like to highlight two specific mobile theme optimizations below.

6.1.1. Use a responsive design

Responsive design means that the design of your website adapts to the screen size your visitor is using. You can do this by using specific CSS media queries. We wrote about responsive design way back when, but in the basis, things are still the same. You have to address certain ranges of screen widths and design for those. Most WordPress themes should be responsive by now.

Depending on the part of the world you are targeting, no, depending on how fast their mobile internet is (2G? Already at 5G?), you might want to change a couple of things. Think about how you use images on your site. Are you using any text enhancements or font variations that might hinder a good performance of the mobile website? Responsive design helps you build a more focused website. That brings us to the second optimization.

6.1.2. Prioritize what’s important to mobile users

Take a step back and look at your website: what do your users want to do here? Define the four to six main tasks your user performs on your website and focus on these. Maybe even give the most important task a big fat call-to-action button.

Here’s an example: If you have a local business, the two main tasks might be calling you or finding the directions to your business. That means you could add these as a special mobile menu, for instance, — some kind of bar that is visible all the time. Focus on your visitor’s main tasks and make their life as easy as possible. How to find these top tasks? Ask your visitors! Also, check Google Analytics for the most visited pages on your mobile website. More about Analytics further down this article.

6.2. Consider using AMP

If you are using WordPress, you could serve Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well. AMP is a 2015 initiative by Google and some major publishers. It allows for fast mobile pages and does so by stripping some of the design. AMP these days is used for both static content and dynamic content like news articles. AMP has pretty strict code requirements, so be sure to validate your AMP pages frequently.

One of the challenges you as a website owner might have is to make sure the AMP version of your website aligns with your branding. Make sure your visitor — used to visiting your desktop/responsive website — still clearly understands that he or she is visiting your pages. Luckily, the difference between design on all these platforms can be minimalized.

If you are looking to kick-start the AMP version of your WordPress website, be sure to check the official AMP plugin. This will add an AMP version of your website after installing the plugin.

7. Analyze and improve your performance

A good SEO campaign relies not only on implementing changes but also measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works and doing more of that. Google has developed two amazing tools to analyze the results of your website and to identify new opportunities where you could focus on in the future.

The first one, for analyzing results, is Google Analytics. By adding Google Analytics to your website, you make sure all user data will be stored in your own account. You can, for instance, check how many visits your pages get, how many of your visitors convert, how many visitors immediately leave your website after landing on a certain page and much more. Within Google Analytics, you can see how visitors behave on your website. Here’s how to track your SEO with Google Analytics.

The second tool is meant to analyze how your website performs and to see how visitors find you in the search engine. That tool is Google Search Console. By exporting and sorting through your search queries and impression data, it’s easy to identify opportunities where you could focus on improving clickthrough rates, content, and/or rankings.

7.1. Set up and integrate Google Analytics

To start with Google Analytics, you need to create an account. Click the ‘Start for free’ button to start. To set up your account, you need to add an Account Name first. This could be your company name. However, when you’re about to add other websites to your account, we recommend choosing a more generic Account Name. Also, you can always change your Account Name later when you want to.

After setting up your account, it’s time to add a property: the website you want to add. Insert the Website Name and the Website URL. Make sure you add the precise URL: http:// or https:// and with or without www for collecting the right data.

Create a new account in Google Analytics

After setting up your property you can choose for yourself if you want to enable, some of the data sharing settings. Each data sharing option gives you a clear explanation of what you will be sharing enabling it.

Now you’re almost ready to go! The last step to connect your website to your new Google Analytics account is adding the tracking code to your website. After successfully creating your account and adding a new property you’ll see this screen with your Google Analytics tracking code on top:

Copy the tag to your site

This tag needs to be added to your website. The easiest way to do this within WordPress is by installing a Google Analytics plugin such as the MonsterInsights Plugin for WordPress. Installing this plugin, you don’t need to touch the actual code of your website to connect with Google Analytics. You just simply install and activate the plugin, insert your tracking ID and you’re set! You can also use Google’s Site Kit WordPress plugin to get data from Analytics and Search Console in your backend.

For more technical readers, it’s also possible to add the tag manually to the head of every webpage or to add the tag to Google Tag Manager.

Now your website is connected to Google Analytics, it will start collecting data of your users. Start clicking around to see what all can be found within the data or start reading one of our blog posts about Google Analytics for helpful tips.

7.2. Set up your Google Search Console account

The second tool we think is important to set up is Google Search Console. We recommend going through all steps and you will be all set! In brief, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  • Create or sign in to your Google Search Console account.
  • Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.
  • Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.
  • Verify your website — within the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily copy and paste the meta tag to make it work.

After connecting your website to Google Search Console, it will start collecting data about the performance of your website.

7.3. Other useful tools

Of course, there are plenty of other useful tools out there to get valuable insights into your website and to find SEO opportunities. Everyone has their own favorite tools, so it’s important to just start playing with different tools to find out what tool brings you what you need most.

There are all-in-one SEO tools which give you a complete overview of your performance and there are more in-depth tools which give you more specific data. Think about site speed tools, duplicate content tools, site analysis tools, keyword research tools and much more.

Some tools we use besides Google Analytics and Google Search Console:

Bing Webmaster Tools

Within the Source/Medium section of Google Analytics, you can see what percentage of your traffic is coming from Bing. When this is a sufficient amount of traffic, you might want to create a Bing Webmaster Tools account as well. Bing Webmaster Tools is the Google Search Console variant for Bing. It shows you your site’s health and performance in the Bing search results.

Ryte

Ryte is one of the all-in-one SEO suites you could use to analyze on-page SEO. The tool crawls your website to give you a bunch of data on indexing, errors, links, speed and much more. You can try Ryte for free to see what it has in it for you. Ryte even integrates with Yoast SEO.

Google Lighthouse

Google Lighthouse is a Chrome extension which you can download for free. With the Lighthouse tool, you can easily generate a report with scores for Performance, Progressive Web App, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. This report will give you a quick overview of how your site is doing and you can immediately start working on the areas that need the most attention. You can also use the web-based version on web.dev/measure.

Hotjar

To get insights on how your visitors actually move, scroll and click on your webpages, you could use a tool like Hotjar. This user research tool also has options to add polls or surveys to your site to start doing research. You can try it for free, and the paid packages have competitive prices.

Interested in more valuable tools? Check our list of favorite SEO tools here!

8. Promote your site

You put a lot of time and effort into the content of your site and making sure that readers can find that content via search engines thanks to SEO, but there are other ways to get people to visit your WordPress site and read your posts. But how do you get and grow such an audience? Simply writing posts and putting these out there won’t do the trick: you need to promote your site!

8.1. Encourage engagement

It’s always fun to interact with your readers, but how do you get them to engage? With engagement, we mean all the different ways people can interact with your post. It could be leaving a comment, sharing it on social media or taking action on the topic in general.

But how do you get people to engage? You can always ask them! Write in an engaging way, and then ask your readers for their opinion. Then respond to these comments in order to keep the conversation going and build a relationship with your readers.

Engagement also benefits SEO, as it shows that your site is alive and active. If you want to dive deeper into blog engagement, you can read our post on how you can increase blog engagement.

8.2. Grow your reach

Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. You should be active on the social media channels where your (potential) audience is present. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are examples of popular social media. It might be a lot to decide on, so you can find out more in our blog post on social media strategy: where to begin?

8.3. Build a mailing list

In addition to using social media to promote your blog, it is often a good idea to invest in a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.

Make sure that you offer a subscribe field beneath your posts and on other visible places on your website. Make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly. But, most of all, make sure your newsletter is truly something special! We use MailChimp for our newsletter, which is free up until 2,000 subscribers.

8.4. Amplify your content

The number of blog posts published every day is enormous, which is why it’s becoming much harder to stand out. Your articles have a big chance of getting lost in the vast sea of content. To help your content reach its full potential you need to amplify it.

If your content is original and well-structured, you’re probably able to reach new audiences. Take a look at how you can reach new audiences, beyond your organic reach.

Maybe advertising on Facebook or Instagram might be a good way to reach new audiences for your content? Analyze what channels you already use and decide where you can do more in order to broaden your audience.

9. Conclusions

This guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do on your WordPress site. It goes from technical SEO tips to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.

You’re competing with every other website and business on the planet for attention, visitors, and outcomes. That means you have to put in a lot of hard work!

But don’t worry — we’re here to help.

So if you want to keep updated on the latest news about WordPress, SEO, and our plugins, then you can subscribe to our newsletter and stay one step ahead of the competition!

Read more: How to use WordPress: Answering 12 common WordPress questions »

The post WordPress SEO: the definitive guide appeared first on Yoast.

The ultimate guide to UTM tagging

Welcome to the wonderful world of UTM tagging! This is a must-read for everyone that wants to track their marketing efforts and everyone who needs an extra hand with creating their own UTM tags.

  • What are UTM tags?
  • Why should you use UTM tags?
  • What UTM tags are there?
  • Channels to use UTM tags for
  • How to set up a UTM protocol?
  • How to find UTM tags in Google Analytics?
  • UTM tag don'ts

    What are UTM tags?

    UTM tags are parameters you can add to links that point to your website that send extra information to Google Analytics. Perhaps you’ve clicked on a link from a newsletter and saw all bunch of weird stuff in the URL.

    These things are UTM tags. And people use them to track their marketing efforts so that they can analyze that effort in Google Analytics.

    Why should you use UTM tags?

    Google Analytics recognizes a lot of traffic and places traffic in buckets. If you explore the source/medium report, you can see how Google Analytics sees this traffic and where it ends up. If you’re wondering how Google Analytics sees traffic from Facebook or your newsletter, grab your mobile phone, make sure you’re on 2G/3G/4G/5G and visit Facebook or your newsletter and click on a link that points to your website. At the same time, check your Real-Time traffic sources report and see if you show up there and how you show up. If you see that Google Analytics recognizes you as direct / none, then Google Analytics doesn’t know where you came from.

    Let’s say you have a lovely newsletter. Its content is awesome, there are links to your site. There are upsell buttons, images that link to your site. You’ve got the whole shebang! You’ve put a lot of effort into these emails because you’ve heard that they can really help your business. And you’d like to see if you get any traffic from your newsletters, if your readers buy anything, and you’d like to see which types of content they find interesting and what not. So you go to the place that can help you with these types of questions: Google Analytics! And you’re searching and searching, but you can’t find anything. You know why you can’t find them? The links in your emails weren’t tagged and all that traffic ended up in a bucket called direct / none.

    That’s where UTM tags come in. With UTM tags you add extra information about what types of things your audience clicked on from sources that don’t automatically add this type of information. All those items like image clicks, button clicks in your newsletter can be tracked by using UTM tags.

    If you don’t tag your emails, your PDF’s and your social efforts, you have no way of knowing what to optimize. Or how to optimize. You wouldn’t have a clue on what works for your business and what doesn’t work.

    What UTM tags are there?

    You can use 5 UTM parameters to define your traffic more precisely. Let’s go over them one by one.

    1. utm_medium
    2. utm_source
    3. utm_campaign
    4. utm_term
    5. utm_content

    Medium

    Open up the Medium report in Google Analytics and see what comes up. Google Analytics recognizes certain mediums by itself, like: organic, referral, cpc. It can recognize email but this doesn’t have to mean it can recognize traffic from your email campaigns. Google support defines medium as: “The advertising or marketing medium”. For me medium is an umbrella term, it’s a general bucket where a lot of things can belong to.

    Source

    Source is a bit more specific, you can see what I mean when you just look at the Source report in Google Analytics. Here you’ll see types of search engines, websites that are referrers, social media platforms and so on. Google support defines source as: “Identify the advertiser, site, publication, etc. that is sending traffic to your property”. It all comes together when you look at the source/medium report. Here you’ll see which source belongs to which medium. The UTM tag Source is mandatory when tagging your links.

    Campaign

    You’re most probably only going to see data in the Campaign report in Google Analytics if you have AdWords campaigns or using UTM tags for campaigns. Google support defines the Campaign tag as: “The individual campaign name, slogan, promo code, etc. for a product”.

    Term and Content

    There isn’t a standard report in Google Analytics for the Term tag and the Content tag. It’s only possible if you add one of these as a secondary dimension or if you create a custom report. Just like the Campaign tag, you’re only seeing data for these two tags if you used that in UTM tags. Google support’s definition of the UTM Term tag is: “Identify paid search keywords”. That’s specifically for AdWords but later on you’ll learn that you can use the Term tag for anything you’d like. Google support defines the Content tag as: “Used to differentiate similar content, or links within the same ad”.

    Channels to use UTM tags for

    There are marketing channels where UTM tags come in very handy. Always tag your email marketing efforts. If you use PDFs that people can download or are send to people as an incentive and that PDF contains links to your site, UTM tag those links. That way you can see if people are actually coming to your website using that PDF. And if there are upsells or other conversion goals, like a make an appointment button, you can check in Google Analytics if your PDFs are converting or not. Google Analytics can recognize traffic from Facebook and Twitter and such but you can only analyze that traffic on a source/medium level. And apart from that, you don’t know if you’ve gotten traffic from other people sharing links to your site on a social platform. If you want more information about your social media efforts, use UTM tags.

    How to set up a UTM protocol?

    This is actually the hard part. You need to think about a constructive, sustainable UTM protocol you can use for your channels which can be scalable. You must think about a strategy that can deal with change because you never know where your business is headed. Important to know is that Medium and Source are related to each other, all other tags don’t necessarily have to be related to each other. Each step adds more information to your data. It’s a way of classifying your traffic.

    The Medium UTM tag is the most general UTM tag of them all. This is a big bucket of data that is collected by the same medium. And since we’re talking about ways that drive traffic to your site, we’re going to use an analogy to make things more clear. You can see UTM tags as if it was a way of transportation. A medium can be a car, a plane, a boat and so on. And I can compare mediums to know which type of transportation is working for my website at the moment.

    Source is a smaller bucket, but still a pretty large one. The source is related to the medium. If we take the analogy of a car, a source can be the brand of the car. By looking at the source, we know if we can better spend money on trying to get more traffic from brand X or on brand Y.

    We’re narrowing our data with campaigns. We don’t only want to know which brand of car drives more traffic and converts better but also which type of car is most successful. If Yoast was a car brand (that would be awesome), we want to know if Yoast sedans convert better than Yoast SUVs.

    And because we can, we send more information about our data to Google Analytics. By adding a content and term UTM tag. We can distinguish purple and green Yoast cars with the content UTM tag. And we can add more information like green gear change Yoast SUVs and compare that to automatic green Yoast SUVs. Gear change information can be send with the UTM term tag. See how much information about one specific type of traffic I can gather just by using UTM tags?

    As I hope this example tells you, is that you can use UTM tags to give you more information about your data. The challenge is to think of especially mediums and sources that last. Thinking about on which level you want to see data and compare data can be quite the challenge. What kind of information do you need to improve your marketing further?

    Example: medium=email

    When I was setting up a UTM protocol for Yoast, I was dying to see some examples I could use for Yoast. But the frustrating thing was that each of the sources I consulted saying different things. And I understand why; it’s about what works for you as an analyst and what works for your business. Here’s how WE use UTM tagging for our emails.

    We have different types of email, for instance our standard newsletter that contains our latest updates. And we have Sales emails that we only send to our subscribers when we have a sale. They both belong to the same medium which is email. And I’m using source to distinguish the type of email. For our standard newsletter I use the date on which the newsletter is send on. But if you’re more interested in the day of the week or the time you send the newsletter, use that as a campaign. It all depends on what kind of information you’d like to see in Google Analytics. We could also add term and content tags for our regular newsletter but decided we don’t need to see more specific data.

    For our Sales email we use the name of our sale for the UTM campaign tag. The cool thing is that if you use that campaign tag for everything you’re doing to promote your sale, like Facebook posts, you can later on analyze which marketing channel worked best during the sale.

    Black Friday campaign UTM tag

    We use the UTM content tag to distinguish buttons from text links so we can figure out if people are more inclined to click on a button or on a text link later on. If you have more than one button, you can use content tags like: button-1, button-2 etc. etc.

    We use the UTM term tag to identify the page the link points to. This last one isn’t really necessary because you can also tell this by looking at the landing page in combination with the campaign. But of course, you can add other information in the UTM term tag like the color of the button or the category the page of the link belongs to.

    But in the end, it’s all about what YOU, as an analyst, would like to see in Google Analytics! It’s about gathering information about the behavior of your audience, about how to get more insight into your audience.

    How to create a UTM protocol yourself

    Write down all your marketing efforts on a piece of (digital) paper. What are you doing with email? What types of email do you have? And what kind of things are you doing on social? And perhaps other channels. Are you running campaigns? Map it all out. And then just write down possible UTM tags for all of them and check if it’s useful for you or not. Keep trying different ways of UTM tagging till you finally have a structure that works! And try to visualize how it will look in Google Analytics. So get familiar with the source/medium and campaign report.

    There are Google Sheets out there that help you, like this one from Annie Cushing:

    Annie Cushing’s Google Analytics Campaign Tagging Tool

    Using such a Google Sheet will help you with consistently tagging your links. Google also has a tool you can use to create links with UTM tags:

    Campaign URL builder

    When you’re done creating the UTM protocol it’s vital that everyone in your team that has to deal with UTM tagging is aware of this protocol. And of course, it’s very important that everyone uses it in a consistent manner.

    How to find UTM tags in Google Analytics?

    All this time we’ve been talking about UTM tags, we’re talking about traffic sources. If you want to know how to find each tag in Google Analytics, you need to be in the Acquisition section.

    The utm_medium corresponds with the Medium variable in Google Analytics. And utm_source corresponds with the Source variable. If you click on ‘Source’ right above the table, you only see the Source. And if you want a more general view, click on Medium.

    In the Acquisition section you can find an item called ‘Campaigns’. Here you can find your data about the utm_campaign tag.

    If you want to find the utm_content and utm_term tag, you need to do a small extra effort. You can only see these if you add a Secondary dimension in the standard reports in Google Analytics:

    In Google Analytics the utm_content is called ‘Ad Content’. The utm_term is called ‘Keyword’ and you can add these variables as a secondary dimension to your reports. If you want all of your UTM tags in one report, you need to create a custom report.

    UTM tag don’ts

    There’s no need to add UTM tags on links that are on your site. If you do use tags on internal links, you’ll overwrite the original source of your traffic. So for instance, if someone from a paid Facebook post comes to your site and clicks on a link in the menu that’s UTM tagged and buys a product, there’s no way of knowing that your paid Facebook ad was the source that lead to a conversion.

    2. Using Campaign tags that are too general

    Tags that are completely the same, end up in the same bucket in Google Analytics. If you’re using a campaign that is specifically for email, but someone else in your team is using the same campaign for a completely different thing on social, these will end up in the same bucket. But they’re both completely different things! You don’t want to draw the wrong conclusions so you want to be sure that you’re not mistakenly receiving data from a different campaign with the same name. For sales campaigns I suggest to add a date. For channel specific campaigns, add something that relates to the source, like utm_campaign=fb-daily-post.

    3. Not consistently using UTM tags

    Every time you misspell a tag or use an uppercase tag instead of a lowercase tag, a new tag is created. Why is that a bad thing? Well because of this:

    UTM tagging gone wrong in Google Analytics

    Rows 5 and 6 are examples of tagging gone wrong and as you can see, traffic from these UTM tags get a separate row. But it’s traffic that belongs to row 1, the sales/email source. Now these numbers are small but what if that number is bigger?

    4. Not using the utm_source tag

    This one is mandatory. And if you want to be completely safe, use the Medium, Source and Campaign tags to avoid tracking errors.

    5. Tagging guest posts

    If websites have links that point to your site, they’ll be easy to recognize in the referral section in Google Analytics. The same goes for if you write a guest post for someone’s website. You can see this traffic in your referral report.

    6. Create too specific Medium tags

    As said before, you want your Medium tag to be as general as possible. If you create too specific Medium tags then you’re missing the meta view of all efforts that belong to that medium. You don’t want utm_medium=facebook because how can you measure all of your social media efforts in Google Analytics?

    7. Using sensitive information in tags

    You don’t want to share business sensitive information in your UTM tags, information you don’t like others to know. Because with UTM tags, that’s publicly visible. The same goes for personal information, don’t store data which can be traced back to a specific person.

    8. Use tags that aren’t recognizable in Google Analytics

    If you don’t know what it means just by looking at it, it’s not very suitable as a tag. You make your life a whole lot easier if you can tell what it is without having to go to the link. It really helps you to analyze your Google Analytics data.

    Read more: How to create and use dashboards in Google Analytics »

    The post The ultimate guide to UTM tagging appeared first on Yoast.

Google Tag Manager: an introduction

Perhaps you’ve heard about it: Google Tag Manager. Google introduced this tool 5 years ago, a tool that would make marketers less dependent on developers and that would, therefore, speed up your marketing process. Google Tag Manager has evolved over the years becoming a more complete and easy to use tool. Here I want to explain why you should sign up today, if you aren’t using Google Tag Manager already. 

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Before I go on to introduce Tag Manager, I do want to say a word of warning. Tag Manager is a powerful tool, and like any power tool, it should be used with care. Don’t just add tags that look appealing to you but you don’t fully understand. For instance, you might bring in a tag that could harm your site because the code is not safe. Or use a tag that influences your data tracking. If you’re not sure or in doubt of a certain tag, have someone who knows JavaScript take a look at it. Luckily, Tag Manager has a great Preview and Debug mode that lets you validate code before you publish.

What is Google Tag Manager?

If you have closer look at the term Google Tag Manager, you can guess what it’s about. It’s a tool developed by Google to manage your tags. But then the next question arises: what’s a tag? A tag is a snippet of code. There’s a whole bunch of analytics and marketing tools out there that work with JavaScript code. For instance, the Google Analytics tracking code – the one you add to your site to track your site’s traffic with Google Analytics – is JavaScript code.

Did you ever had to wait for a developer to add a piece of JavaScript to your site? Or to test whether that code wasn’t harming your website? Then you know how much valuable time that can take. With Google Tag Manager you can add these pieces of JavaScript or tags yourself. Google Tag Manager even has the ability to test whether you’ve implemented the tag correctly.

Running every tag from Google Tag Manager has two big advantages. First of all, you’ll have an overview of the tags you’ve added. Secondly, you’re in full control of measuring the effects of your marketing efforts.

What can you use it for?

Because Google Tag Manager allows you to add JavaScript to your site, you can use it for a lot of things. You can use it to get more insight in the behaviour of visitors on your site – ‘events’ like clicking on a button – but also to get tags of third party tools on your site. It will even help you to add structured data to your pages!

Google Analytics and Tag Manager

One of the most used tags that’s managed in Google Tag Manager is the Google Analytics tag. Not only can you add the Google Analytics tracking code. You can use Google Tag Manager to create, for instance, custom dimensions, events or content grouping. This means that you can track if people click on your buttons, if they scroll down to a certain point on your page, if they watch your videos and so on. All the cool things you can do with Google Analytics events, can now be managed in Google Tag Manager. And you won’t need a developer for it!

Other third party tools

Google Tag Manager supports a lot of third party tags, like: Adwords, Adobe Analytics, Bing ads, Hotjar, Crazyegg and so on. You can find the complete list on the Google Google Tag Manager support forum. You can use Hotjar tags to finally get those heatmaps – a visual representation of where people click on your site – you wanted to have. Or run surveys and A/B tests on your site. Getting data like that can help you bring your conversion rate to the next level.

Google Tag Manager and structured data

But there’s more! You can also use Google Tag Manager to implement structured data on your site. Structured data is extra information you add to your page in a specific format. Google can show this information in the search results, which makes it more likely people click on your result and engage with your page.

At the moment, we’re working on a new and practical course about structured data. In this course, you’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. Don’t miss the launch and keep an eye on our newsletter!

Where to find Google Tag Manager?

Google is ubiquitous with its tools. If you visit: google.com/analytics/  you can see all tools Google has developed to help you with your marketing strategy. In addition to Google Analytics, there are tools to help you boost conversion or perform customer surveys. And, of course, there’s Google Tag Manager. You can sign up for free! Wait! Free, you say? Yes, free!! So what’s stopping you?

After you’ve signed up, you can create an account for your website, your iOS or Android app or your AMP pages:

Create a container in Google Tag Manager

Just provide the URL of your site as the container name and then select web – if you want to implement it on your website. After you’ve created this container, Google Tag Manager will ask you to add a piece of code in the <head> and <body> of the page. I promise, this is one of the few things you might need a developer for, when it comes to using Google Tag Manager.

install Google Tag manager on your site

Luckily, if you’re using WordPress, you can easily add the Google Tag Manager code using a plugin called DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress. Please note that you only have to use the GTM-XXXX code.

If you’re using another CMS, please check out the quick install guide for more information on how to get started.

After you’ve inserted the Google Tag Manager code to your pages, you’re ready to create your own tags. This can be done in a so called workspace that looks like this:

So now you’re all set up and ready to add those tags to your site.

And now?

We’ll be doing more posts on Google Tag Manager soon. Explaining the practical side of things like how to create variables, triggers and tags, and how to implement structured data with it. We’ll also help you understand how to combine Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics to use it to its full extent. So stay tuned!

Read more: ‘How to use Custom Dimensions in Google Analytics’ »

Social buttons: How to add and track them on your site

To help your blog gain more readers, you can make use of social buttons which allow your current readers to share interesting posts on their social media accounts. But how should you go about implementing them? In this post, we’ll give you some pointers on how to get started.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about social media and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-Around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!

What are social buttons?

For those who don’t know what social buttons are: They’re the buttons that you’ve seen around the internet that are usually placed somewhere below a blog post that allow readers to share articles on various social media platforms. They can help with gaining extra exposure and thus also getting more traffic to your website.

Here’s an example of a few social buttons:

Social Buttons

How did you implement these social buttons in WordPress?

Now you might be wondering about how you can implement these buttons. Your initial thought might be that it’s easiest to add them with some kind of plugin. However, you could also add it to your theme. This gives you extra control over how to style and display things. Of course, you can also decide to add these buttons to a plugin, but the added benefit would be minimal.

An option is to place the code for the social buttons in a template partial. This way, you can easily embed it throughout the website without having to drastically edit template files or having to embed the buttons manually per post.

Here’s a basic example of how you can implement a social button for Facebook. Note that not all the code is actual production code and has been replaced with pseudo-code to make implementation easier to understand.

<?php
// File: <theme_folder>/html_includes/partials/social-share.php
function facebook_social_button() {
	$article_url = get_article_url(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the article's URL.
	$article_url .= '#utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social_buttons';
	$title       = html_entity_decode( get_og_title() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_title.
	$description = html_entity_decode( get_og_description() ); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_description.
	$og_image    = get_og_image(); // Psuedo-code method to retrieve the og_image assigned to a post.
	$images      = $og_image->get_images();
	$url         = 'http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?s=100';
	$url         .= '&p[url]=' . urlencode( $article_url );
	$url         .= '&p[title]=' . urlencode( $title );
	$url         .= '&p[images][0]=' . urlencode( $images[0] );
	$url         .= '&p[summary]=' . urlencode( $description );
	$url         .= '&u=' . urlencode( $article_url );
	$url         .= '&t=' . urlencode( $title );
	
	echo esc_attr( $url );
}

?>

<div id="social-share">
    <div class="socialbox">
        <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" data-name="facebook" aria-label="Share on Facebook" data-action="share"
           href="<?php facebook_social_button(); ?>"> <i class="fa fa-facebook-square text-icon--facebook"></i> </a>
    </div>
</div>

The above code could be used similarly for other social media platforms, but it can vary greatly in terms of URL structure. We advise having a look at the documentation of your desired platforms to ensure compatibility.

To include these social buttons in your blog posts, open up single.php in your theme’s folder and paste the following snippet where you want the buttons to appear:

<?php get_template_part( 'html_includes/partials/social-share' ); ?>

That’s it! If you don’t want to collect interaction data from these buttons, then this is all you need. If you want interactions to be tracked, then read on.

Tracking Interaction with Social Buttons

Having nicely styled social buttons on your website is one thing, but tracking the actual interactions with them would be even better. You can use JavaScript to ensure the tracking of social media sharing is done correctly, so you can easily see what social media platforms are popular among your readers.

The code for this is relatively simple and depends on the Google Analytics Tracker being properly implemented into your website. Assuming this is the case, the following code will be of great help:

jQuery( document ).ready( function( $ ) { $( '.socialbox a' ).click( function( e ) { e.preventDefault(); if ( typeof __gaTracker !== "undefined" ) { __gaTracker( 'send', 'social', $( this ).data( 'name' ), $( this ).data( 'action' ), document.querySelector( "link[rel='canonical']" ).getAttribute( "href" ) ); } }); });

The above JavaScript snippet passes in some of the extra information passed along to the anchor tag. This extra information can be identified by the data- prefix and is retrieved by calling $( this ).data( [...] ). This method allows you to extend the social-share div and add more buttons easily.

If you want more information on how Google tracks this information, you can read about it here.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not very difficult to add social buttons to your blog. Even tracking them in Google Analytics has become a breeze compared to past implementations.

All that’s left is to go and implement the buttons and allow your readers to help promote your posts. Good luck!

Read more: Social media optimization with Yoast SEO »

The post Social buttons: How to add and track them on your site appeared first on Yoast.