Link building with Dixon Jones (Majestic)

“If nobody writes about it, then the content is a tree falling in the forest without anyone there to listen.” That’s how Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic, illustrates the importance of getting the right links to your content. We proudly announce that Dixon will be speaking at YoastCon 2017 on November 2!

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Dixon Jones has worked at the forefront of search marketing since 1999. He became the Marketing Director of the world’s largest link analysis engine, Majestic, in 2009, transforming the SEO industry by providing link intelligence on a scale not previously open to the industry. Here, you can discover what he has to say about link building in 2017.

Majestic is all about links. If you compare links to other ranking factors, like content on a page or technical optimization, how would you rate the importance of links? Any examples to illustrate this?

In March 2016 Google’s Andry Lipattsev revealed that links remained one of Google top three ranking factors. In February 2017 Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the PageRank algorithm that made Google what it is today was still part of the algorithm. So yes – links are highly important, but these days there is a big difference between “a link” and “a link that counts”. Most links are hardly worth the screen they are written on.

Over the years link building changed a lot. Obviously, buying links is not the way to go. But what do you advise site owners if they want to get valuable links?

In a white hat world, you really should be considering the nature of the people that will be reading the page that the link is on. Are they real people? Is it a real story that relates to them? Does the link add to the story and is it a continuation of the user’s quest for knowledge? Is your content the END POINT for that quest?

Come see Dixon Jones speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

Some site owners might find it easier to get links from Facebook or Twitter than from other websites. How do social links compare to links from other websites? What would you invest in more?

Facebook and Twitter create short term noise, but unless that noise translates into others writing evergreen content that links to your site, the benefits are transitory on social. But I think of Social links as a stepping stone to long term success. They give you a tannoy to broadcast a new message… but if the wrong people listen, then nobody will write about what you have to say. If nobody writes about it, then the content is a tree falling in the forest without anyone there to listen… does it make a sound?

When a site owner analyzes their site with Majestic SEO they’ll get a trust and citation flow score. How can they put these metrics to use to help them optimize their site?

Understanding how we create those metrics really helps. The data is not simply scraping Google or looking for some sort of reverse engineering of Search Visibility. Trust Flow really is a score that relates at scale to the quality of a page. The simple workflow is:

  • Find candidate sites for getting links to your content.
  • Find the influencers on these sites.
  • Convince them of the merits of your business and content.

You can start by just typing in a keyword into Majestic to find the candidate sites or you can look at up to 10 competitors and find the hubs of authority for your niche. Both strategies can work well.

Majestic is often used for competitor analysis. Is there a set workflow in Majestic that you can recommend to a new Majestic user who wants to analyze the competition?

Yes. Many people use the “Clique Hunter” to look at sites that link to three or four or more competitors but not to themselves. For some businesses, this creates quite a list, but re-sorting the list can put the best candidates near the top. To the right of each domain is a little cog. Use the cog to select candidate sites to approach and select the “add to bucket” button. You can do this all day, and when you are ready, click on the bucket icon at the top of the screen and you can export all the sites out as a .csv file to approach the influencers for these sites.

Alternatively (and indeed – in addition) I strongly urge users to set up a campaign dashboard as soon as they have an account on Majestic. This starts tracking their niche and from these dashboards, you can easily analyze the sites in any of Majestic’s tools by using the “Export Sites To…” button.

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

The chart below shows how our Gamification system has distributed 1 Million “badges” on Majestic. Only 3% of all badges were for areas of our site related to comparing websites. This tells us that most users are really only scratching the surface of what Majestic can do for them. Yoast’s conference is a chance to go deeper. You’ll find out things about links analysis you never knew was possible.

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

5 questions: Talking local SEO with David Mihm

David Mihm is a local SEO legend. He’s been a leading figure in the SEO world for years. Recently, he started a new firm called Tidings, that helps businesses achieve success in local markets. We’re honored to present you his fantastic answers to five pressing questions on local SEO. Find out what you should focus on if you want to be successful in your area!

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You’ve been in the – local – SEO business for a long time now. You’ve seen many trends come and go, but what was the most striking change you’ve encountered in local SEO in recent years?

Well, I’m going to cheat a little. I’d say there are two very important trends. These are far more important for the average local business than any given algorithm update over which so many SEOs obsess. These are 1) Google’s increased monetization of local SERPs, and 2) Knowledge Panels. I wrote about both of these pretty extensively in my 2017 predictions post.

Google is showing more Adwords than ever above the fold; that won’t be news to anyone. What might be news are some of their hybrid ad/local units. We’re seeing them now in the hotel space and some home services verticals on the U.S. West Coast. Within a couple of years, these hybrid ad formats will roll out to every category, and every geographic market in the world. The availability and visibility of organic inventory will decrease.

In parallel, Google has been moving into a world of answers, not websites. They want to present as much information as they can about a local business directly in the search result. This way the need for searchers to click through to a business’s website will decrease. We’re seeing more and richer information like photos, reviews, busy times, critic lists on which the business is included. There’s also an increase in the ability to transact with the business right from the SERP. Especially in the hospitality, restaurant, and personal care industries. Of course, websites still play a crucial role in helping Google determine the relevance and authority of your business. But you’re going to get fewer clickthroughs from Google. Even if the number of customers they send you remains consistent.

Why is there this distinction between Local SEO and regular SEO? What are the main differences between the two?

There are two prongs to the differences. The first is that since the Venice update in ca. 2011, Google has been localizing organic search results to the geographic area of the searcher. If I search for something like “bankruptcy lawyer,” Google interprets that search as inherently local. I’m looking for a bankruptcy lawyer near me, not in New York or Hong Kong or London. So they sprinkle in websites from local bankruptcy attorneys for this “global” query via some local filter on their traditional algorithm. I didn’t specify “Portland, Oregon” in my search, but Portland bankruptcy lawyers appear right alongside the largest websites in the world like Yelp, Avvo, and Findlaw. Optimizing a website and backlink profile to have a strong local scent is a different skill set than optimizing an eCommerce or media website.

The second prong (one with an even greater difference than traditional SEO) is that there is a fundamentally different algorithm at work that ranks the business listings included in what we call the 3-pack: the visual unit that appears between the ads and organic website results. This algorithm is built largely on ranking factors that aren’t in play for a typical organic market: business listing data, user reviews, proximity to the searcher, and many others.

example of a 3-pack local seo

The 3-pack shown between the ads and organic results after a local search query

 

It’s hard to rank in a neighboring area or town. So what can you do when your business is not close to the center? Or when you live in a small town? Can your business compete with those in a larger city?

It’s going to be hard. You’re probably better off trying to win business on social media than you are in local search at Google — at least for keywords in the major city — in this instance. The best chance you have is to compete organically by targeting specific pages at the larger city. The best/easiest kind of content to populate these pages is usually case studies from customers who live in the larger city.

Beyond that, it’s going to take an overwhelming review profile (as in 10x the number of reviews of the most-reviewed big city competitor) to get noticed in the 3-pack. And that takes a LOT of time and a lot of effort.

So my general advice would be to dominate your small-town market. Get as many customers from your “backyard” as you can. Then start to gradually expand to the bigger city using word-of-mouth, targeted offline business partnerships and referrals, and eventually social media.

Let’s say you have limited resources available to work on your local SEO. You can focus on a maximum of three things. What would you advise?

Glad you asked!  I’ve got a graphical resource which I hope answers this question perfectly :)

Thinking about the longest-term benefits for local search, I’d say you should focus first on your website.  Make it mobile-responsive, answer the most common questions your customers have, showcase customer stories and case studies, and make sure you convert people who are already clicking through to it.

Next, I’d focus on building offline relationships in your community (but make sure they’re represented online as well).  Think about relevant non-profits to which you can donate time or money, get involved in community events, and figure out how you can network with and support complementary local businesses to your own.

And then I’d implement a really great review acquisition platform. Getting happy customers to talk about your business on prominent review sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook is not only an increasingly important ranking factor, but it helps convert prospective customers who see all of your great ratings.

The great thing for local businesses is Local SEO should get less-technical over time. Things like title tags, citations and backlinks are certainly still important, but I see their relative value diminishing as Google collects more and more engagement signals from individual customers.

Today’s marketing landscape seems to revolve in large part around social media. How important is social media for Local SEO? Should every local business have and maintain a Facebook business listing? If so, how?

Social media is important for a holistic digital presence and does have some value for Local SEO. All kinds of studies show that customers are more likely to buy from a business that shows some engagement on social media — an active presence gives people a better feel for your business before they decide to purchase from you.

Every local business should maintain a Facebook business page — not least because Facebook, at some point, will decide to leverage the huge amount of data they have around local businesses and launch a local search engine of their own. You’ll want to have a strong presence out of the gate when that happens.

Beyond that, Facebook pages regularly rank well for your business name, so they’re great for reputation management. And we routinely see Facebook reviews pulled into the Knowledge Panels for local businesses in virtually every industry. So from that standpoint, we know Google is at least able to assess your volume of Facebook reviews (if not the content of the reviews themselves).

(Local businesses should know that unless they pay to Boost or otherwise advertise their Facebook presence, though, very few fans will see it (likely somewhere between 2 – 6%). Helping bridge the gap between expected performance on Facebook and the actual performance of email marketing is the rationale behind my new product, Tidings.)

Read more: ‘Local ranking factors that improve your local SEO’ »

Interview with Marcus Tandler, OnPage.org – YoastCon speaker

We proudly introduce you to yet another pre-eminent speaker at YoastCon 2017: Marcus Tandler! Marcus, also known as Mediadonis, is co-founder and managing director at OnPage.org. This award-winning SaaS Tech-StartUp helps webmasters make better websites. Marcus started working in the SEO industry about 20 years ago, so he gained a lot of experience over the years. Read in this interview why you should not focus on Google or SEO when optimizing your site!

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You’ve been in the business for a very long time (since 1998). Do you think SEO changed a lot during this time? If so, what are the main lessons we can learn from those changes?

SEO has changed a lot from its early years to where we are now. When I started with SEO, keyword stuffing was the way to go. It was only about putting as many instances of a particular keyword on your page, preferably using a white font on white background to not bother the user ;)

When Google introduced its link-based ranking algorithm, the link spam games began. People were grabbing low hanging fruit via open guestbooks, forums and comments or simply buying links on high Pagerank domains. SEOs were addicted to Pagerank. For a long time acquiring links was pretty much the only thing you’d have to worry about when trying to rank a website for juicy keywords.

Brand and authority have continued to become more important throughout the years, which all started with Google’s Vince update in 2009. On-page SEO and UX have become more important as well, with Google becoming less dependent on ranking signals which can be gamed from the outside, like backlinks.

Google’s goal is to create happy users. Google has become exceptional in anticipating search intent and delivering a satisfying result.

These days, links will get you into the top 10 at best; it’s user behavior that will make it rise to the top or vanish to page two. Last year, Google Principal Engineer Paul Haahr said at SMX West:

„We run a lot of experiments, it is very rare if you do a search on Google and you’re not in at least one experiment.“

Of course, those are not all ranking experiments. Google famously tested 42 different shades of blue to find the optimal blue for their search result links.

So the main lesson is: Only try to rank for keywords, where you can deliver the best possible result – or at least the best among the top 10 ;)

Come see Marcus Tandler speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

You must have seen lots of websites in your career. What’s the biggest mistake you think website owners make when it comes to SEO?

Often people think of SEO as a tactical approach, which gets applied only after the website is up and running. It makes a lot of sense to include an SEOs opinion right from the start when conceptualizing the website or planning a relaunch.

The biggest mistake I see quite a lot is failing at indexation control and poor crawl budget management. Most webmasters are feeding Google all available pages, not thinking about whether Google should index those pages. For example, online shops with x different color variations of the same product on x different pages. Same goes for feeding a blog’s category- and/or tag-pages to Google, while most of the time these pages cannibalize other pages from the blog and provide a subpar result for the user. So basically compulsive hoarding of pages.

Ever since Google introduced the Panda, webmasters should try to cut the fat, only feeding pages to Google which provide value to a potential searcher.
With every page you should ask yourself three questions:

  • Do I need it for my users?
  • Does it need to be indexed?
  • Does it need to rank?

Although Google has almost limitless crawl capabilities, they still want to manage it most effectively. It’s all about avoiding waste of resources. Don’t become a digital compulsive hoarder.

As the co-founder of OnPage.org, the SEO tool that analyzes all kinds of on-page elements that influence your ranking, do you believe focusing on on-page SEO is the best SEO strategy?

Absolutely! Of course, you will need a couple of good links to convince Google of your site’s legitimacy and get a shot at the top 10, but only thorough on-page SEO will make your site stay there.

On-page SEO is the foundation. Your ambition should be creating a 100% perfect website. Fast loading, omni-device friendly, no broken links, broken assets or anything else that can go wrong. There are also various best practices for international websites (hreflang), handling internal duplicate content (canonical), pagination issues (rel prev / next) as well as controlling indexation with the help of robots.txt directives or the noindex-tag. The better Google can understand your website structure and content, the better you will end up ranking.

I’d aim much higher, though. Not focusing specifically on SEO but rather website quality and user experience as a whole. Users want fast loading websites that work properly on all desktop and mobile devices. Of course, Google also likes fast loading websites, because it makes their users happy. So Google should not be your focus, always focus on the user, and you’ll be fine.

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

If you focus on your users, you will be fine and won’t have to worry all too much about potential updates and changes. Google cares a lot about its users, so you should, too. Google is getting better and better at determining which result is the best result for the user, so you should always aim at being the best possible resource for the keywords and topics you’re trying to rank for.

It helps to be honest with yourself up front, so is your website a good resource for these keywords and topics? Do you offer anything unique over the websites which are already ranking in the top 10? Constantly ask yourself: If your website would disappear from the web, would anyone miss it?

Why shouldn’t people miss your talk at YoastCon?

I have a pretty unique form of storytelling racing through hundreds of slides. So besides getting up to speed on what’s happening at Google, you will hopefully have a great time getting slidestormed ;)

Follow Marcus on Twitter: Twitter.com/mediadonis

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Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

Interview with Karl Gilis, AGConsult – YoastCon speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less clutter will result in:

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

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

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

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

3 examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

Interview with Maile Ohye (Google)

According to Maile Ohye of Google, “SEO is evolving into what Loren George McKechnie described as ‘search experience optimization’. It’s less about top ranking, and more about optimizing the searcher’s journey. It’s the intersection of content, UX, and as always, staying smart about search engines.” We had the chance to ask Maile a couple of questions, and she was able to give some interesting answers.

Maile is Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google. Since 2005, she has been working on making the search engine better. One of her works include the release of rel=”canonical”, plus rel=”prev” and rel=”next” for paginated content. Lately, she is focusing heavily on mobile.

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Is Google’s AMP project really going to change the world? If so, can you give our dear readers some pointers on preparing for the upcoming shake up?

The AMP project can definitely make the web better for a lot of people on mobile phones, especially with sub-optimal reception. Ideally, if we could travel back in time, web browsing on mobile phones would have become popular with a format like AMP HTML already in place — instead we had a lot of code-heavy desktop pages that were designed for a broadband connection then ported to mobile. As for an upcoming shakeup, that’s not on our roadmap! AMP isn’t “Google AMP”, it’s an open source project with hundreds of developers who have contributed.

If you’re asking, how will AMP HTML impact Google Search? We still want relevant results for users — we just know users hate slow page loads and AMP is a pretty surefire way to fix that problem and maintain a fast page longer-term. As for pointers on AMP, Yoast, your plugin and blog posts are great. We also have Codelabs if your readers want more info.

AMP is focusing on delivering super fast mobile pages, but will probably grow into much more than that. How will the technology eventually compare with, for instance, progressive web apps?

AMP is great for content-based webpage experiences with basic interactions — it’s not for super-interactive webpages like GMail or Maps. That’s where it can coexist with progressive web apps (PWAs). If you have a more dynamic website, AMP can be great as the initial landing page — the first experience of a user to your site can be AMP fast. Once the user clicks another link on your site, the AMP page can bring them to a PWA experience. (Here’s a demo of a PWA for CNET).

Isn’t Google confusing the web development world by supporting and building these – and other – new technologies? It’s getting nearly impossible to tell if something will ‘stick’, don’t you think?

I agree the number of options can be daunting and “will it stick?” is on many SEOs’ and marketers’ minds. I think with AMP and PWAs, it’s not about Google nearly as much as it’s about what’s best for your customers. AMP and PWAs were spearheaded by Google efforts, but neither are Google-proprietary technologies and both help your visitors whether direct traffic or from Search.

Google is also pushing voice search, AI and making its search engine smarter by way of machine learning (RankBrain). Is it possible that Google will eventually circumvent sites by giving the answer to nearly all questions itself?

First of all, internally, we talk about Search as an ecosystem that includes websites/site owners, users, and a search engine. In other words, websites and site owners are a requirement in search success! When Google provides an answer, we care about attribution. You’ll notice featured snippets still link to a URL for more information. Additionally, there are many queries where a single answer isn’t the end-game. Sites still play a large role in fulfilling searchers’ needs. Sometimes users want to browse, compare, research, learn, go on a journey. Quick answers will never be enough for a broad range of use cases.

A couple of weeks ago, Gary Illyes created major upheaval on the web after announcing that Google will eventually use two separate indexes, one for mobile and one for desktop. This announcement shows once again that mobile is the driving force in this world. Could you tell our readers how this new ranking method will influence their sites and what they should do to not get lost in the shuffle?

With mobile-first indexing, we’ll still have a single index just like the past (we haven’t built two). We still have several Googlebots to help crawl web and apps and get content: Googlebot for desktop, Googlebot for smartphone, Googlebot for images, etc. The difference is that we want to think of the mobile version of a page (the page retrieved by Googlebot for smartphones) as the primary version of the content. This is because worldwide, more people search on mobile than desktop. Now our index can better reflect what mobile searchers will see.

We’re testing the mobile-first index to make sure that searchers still have a great experience. To “optimize” for a mobile-first index, make sure that what you serve to mobile users is the version of the content you’d want Google to index, not a paired down version, or a version that gets updated later than desktop, or version that redirects to the mobile homepage. In most cases, if your site uses RWD (responsive web design), you’ll be fine.

We’d like to thank Maile for taking the time to answer our questions! Follow Maile on:
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Maile will also speak at the upcoming WordCamp US conference, where she will give an update on search and mobile trends.

Read more: ‘Setting up WordPress for AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages’ »

Interview with Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (TNW)

Now this a quote we love: “…being patient and providing quality pays off…“. It’s one of the lessons Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-founder of The Next Web (TNW), shared with us in this interview.

TNW owns one of the most visited tech news sites, and they organize large tech events around the world. Besides that, TNW also offers gadgets for tech geeks, and they’re just launching a tech hub and a market intelligence platform. Boris seems to be a busy guy! Luckily he found time to answer some questions for our new series “5 questions”. In this series we ask digital entrepreneurs to reveal some of the secrets of their success.

TNW is living proof that WordPress can run large scale sites just fine. Why and how did you pick this particular CMS?

When I launched our first blog (for Hubhop, a company I sold to KPN later) I built my own blog software with PHP and MySQL. It was a lot of work, and I wasn’t good at it, so I didn’t enjoy the experience. When WordPress came out, I did like how flexible it was. I liked that at least I understood the code and what was happening behind the scenes.
So when we needed a CMS for our site, I didn’t have to think very long about what we would use. WordPress was just the obvious choice. Even more so because from the beginning, we decided we would always keep on developing and innovating. Our goal was always to be a technology company first.

Running a site of this scale means optimizing lots of processes, both on a technical level and a personal one. What measures did you take to keep the servers humming nicely and the editors happy?

We have a team of developers who work on this full-time. We serve millions of people a month, and we want to make that a seamless experience. So a lot of effort goes into making sure we can scale along if there are traffic spikes. It has been years since we ran into trouble when we hit the front page of Digg. Nowadays we can handle 20 times that amount of traffic and everything still just works fine. That’s still a bit of a miracle to me.

Interview Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten of The Next Web

A well-thought-out SEO strategy is a must-have for sites of any size and scale. What’s your secret SEO-tactic?

We also have dedicated SEO people here, and they are doing an amazing job of keeping track of everything and optimizing for search engines. And of course, we use your amazing plugin as well. We also firmly believe in creating quality content and not getting lost in SEO alone to get more traffic. It’s great to optimize great content through the smart use of SEO, but it sucks to having to promote shitty content with great SEO tactics. I’d rather invest in quality content than try to find tricks to cheat traffic our way.

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TNW is one of many high volume sites that uses Yoast SEO for optimization purposes. Can you tell us how you use the plugin and maybe share some ‘hidden’ tips on using it?

I think the most important part is making sure our writers really understand how things work. There’s a lot of contact between SEO people and writers about what the trends are and how we can optimize for SEO. And optimizing is an important word. I don’t want to write for SEO, but I do want to optimize what we write. That’s an important difference that our writers understand. They all love to see great engagement on posts, and we also love quirky and teasing titles, but try to avoid clickbait titles.

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

My most important lesson is that being patient and providing quality pays off. That seems logical, but most people fail at both. Lots of blogs were started with the idea of growing fast and making money fast. Pretty soon you are resorting to clickbait articles and putting all your hopes on SEO. The quality of your content degrades and soon you’ll find yourself in a negative spiral towards less quality, less traffic and less revenue.
Quality is hard, and it takes a very long time before people get used to you and you become a part of their daily digital diet. We didn’t start out with an idea to make a quick buck. That’s also the reason why we are still doing well, and have survived many of our competitors.

We’d like to thank Boris for sharing his lessons and experiences with us! Follow Boris on:
boris.to
twitter.com/Boris
facebook.com/borisvvz

Stay tuned for another interview next week!