5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing

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

Mobile-first indexing

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

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

1. Do not panic!

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

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

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

2. Do a mobile-friendliness test

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

Check how Google sees your mobile page

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

3. Think about UX on mobile

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

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

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

4. Write mobile-friendly

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

Keep reading: Copywriting for mobile »

5. Check out those mobile snippets

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

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

Check your mobile snippets in the Yoast SEO Google preview

Conclusion on mobile-first indexing

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

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

Read on: How to improve your mobile site »

The post 5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing appeared first on Yoast.

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

Some time ago, Google caused quite a stir by announcing a new ranking factor for 2021: page experience. User experience has always been a essential part of building the best site out there, but now, it will play an even bigger role in helping you build awesome sites for your customers. All this is powered by new metrics, with at the centre: the Core Web Vitals. Time to meet LCP, FID and CLS!

Table of contents

The Google page experience update powered by Web Vitals

We’ve talked about this page experience update before, but in this post, we’d like to take another look at those Core Web Vitals. In general, site speed metrics tend to be hard to understand and confusing. Plus, they tend to change somewhat each time you test your site. You don’t always get the same scores. So, it’s easy to say that you just have to look at some metrics in the hope they turn green. 

Of all the possible metrics, Google now identifies three so-called Core Web Vitals. These are the focal point for Google in the coming year. Every year, Google might add or change these metrics as they evaluate these over a longer period of time. 

Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.

web.dev/vitals/

The three pillars of page experience

For now, the three pillars of page experience are:

  • Loading performance (how fast does stuff appear on screen?)
  • Responsiveness (how fast does the page react to user input?)
  • Visual stability (does stuff move around on screen while loading?)

To measure these essential aspects of user experience, Google chose three corresponding metrics — aka the Core Web Vitals:

  • LCP, Largest Contentful Paint: This measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content to appear on the screen. This could be an image or a block of text. A good grade gives users the feeling that the site loads fast. A slow site can lead to frustration.
  • FIS, or First Input Delay: This measure how long it takes for the site to react to the first interaction by a user. This could be a tap on a button, for instance. A good grade here gives the user a sense that a site is quick to react to input and, therefore, responsive. Slow, again, leads to frustration.
  • CLS, or Content Layout Shift: This measure the visual stability of your site. In other words, does stuff move around on screen while it is loading — and how often does that happen? Nothing more frustrating than trying to click a button when a slow-loading ad appears in that spot.

Different tools use different metrics

Every page experience tool uses a number of Web Vitals, gathered from a variety of sources. As every tool has a different purpose, the metrics used differ per tool. The common denominator, however, are the Core Web Vitals as Google uses these in every page experience tool it has.

But what do all these numbers mean? What do you have to look for on your site? And when is your site fast enough? When do I have a good grade? There are a million questions you could ask about this metrics. And while Google is trying to close the gap between understanding and improving, this continues to be a complex topic. Measuring site speed and user experience is hard — there are so many things to factor in.

What are these Core Web Vitals?

The Core Web Vitals don’t work in isolation, as there are a whole lot of other metrics. Some are based on controlled lab tests, while others are metrics that only work with field data. After doing a lot of research, Google determined a new set called Web Vitals. These are a combination of metrics we already know, plus a set of new ones. The three Core Web Vitals are the most important ones and Google is specifically asking site owners to keep an eye on these scores and improve them where you can.

LCP: Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint measures the point at which the largest content element appears on the screen. Keep in mind that it doesn’t measure the time it takes for your page to fully load, but it simply looks at when the most important part loads.

If you have a simple web page with just a piece of text and a large image, that large image will be considered the LCP. Since this is the largest piece of content to load in the browser, it’s destined to make an impression. By getting that to load quicker, your site can appear much faster. So, sometimes, it might just be as simple as optimizing that image itself. 

In the past, there were metrics like First Meaningful Content, which measured time when the first piece of content appeared on screen that meant something to the user. But, unlike the name suggests, the FMC metric often couldn’t figure out what was the most meaningful thing that appeared on screen. Complex metrics lead to useless data.

Largest Contentful Paint is easy to understand: it is simply the time it takes for the largest element to appear on the screen. These elements might include images, videos or other types of content. 

What you need to know

Now you know what the LCP is you can start optimizing for it. According to Google, you should aim for the LCP to happen within the first 2.5 seconds of the page loading. Everything under 4 seconds needs improvement and you can consider everything over that as performing poorly. 

An overview of the scoring for LCP

The LCP is also dynamic, as the first thing that loads might not immediately be that large image. The LCP shifts to that large image when that appears on screen. 

Here’s an image from Google that explains how the works:

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

On the left, you first see the logo and ‘Visual stories’ line appear. In the second screen, the large headline appears as a candidate for LCP. In the last screen, however, you see that big image overtakes the header as LCP. If you have just one big piece of content, that might be the LCP the whole time.

If you look at the loading process in the image, you can easily see why this is such a handy metric. You can easily spot what the LCP is and optimize the loading of that element. 

Google offers several tools to help you find all these elements. PageSpeed Insights, for instance, offers a wealth of data on Web Vitals, plus a whole lot of advice to improve your page. If we run yoast.com on PageSpeed Insights, we get a number of scores and below that score, advice. In our case, the LCP was average and that’s due to it being a large image. In the screenshot below, you can see that PageSpeed Insights correctly identified that element. Now you now what to improve!

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

According to Google, the LCP is affected by a number of factors: 

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

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

FID: First Input Delay

The First Input Delay measure the time it takes for the browser to respond to the first interaction by the user. The faster the browser reacts, the more responsive the page will appear. If you are looking to offer your users a positive experience — who isn’t? —, then you should work on the responsiveness of your pages. 

Delays happen when the browser is still doing other work in the background. So, it has loaded the page and everything looks dandy. But when you tap that button, nothing happens! That’s a bad experience and it leads to frustration. Even if there’s just a small delay it might make your site feel sluggish and unresponsive.

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

The FID measures all interaction that happen during the loading of the page. These are input actions like taps, clicks and keypresses, but not interactions like zooming and scrolling. Google’s new metrics call for an FID of less than 100ms to appear responsive. Anything between 100ms and 300ms needs improvement and you can view anything above that as performing poorly.

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

What you need to know

One of the things you need to remember is that you cannot measure the FID if there is no user interaction. This means that Google can’t simply predict the FID based on the data they have from the lab — they need data from real users, or so-called field data. This also means that this data is less controllable as lab data as it collects data from users will all kinds of devices and who uses in different ways and environments. This is one of the reasons why you sometimes see data change.

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

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

For instance, yoast.com has a pretty good score but it’s not perfect. There are still processes that prohibit us from getting perfect scores. Some of these are complicated to fix or we simply need this code for our site to function properly. You should look at your scores and determine what you can do. Try to find the improvements that are easiest to do or result in the biggest performance jumps.

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

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

CLS: Content Layout Shift

The third Core Web Vital is a brand-new one: Content Layout Shift. This metric tries to determine how ‘stable’ stuff loads onto your screen. It looks at how often stuff jumps around while loading and by how much. You can imagine that sometimes a button loads on the screen, inviting users to click it. In the background, however, there’s still a large content area being loaded. The result? When the content finally fully loads, the button pushes down a bit — just as you want to hit that button. Again, frustration mounts!

These layout shifts happen a lot with ads. Now, ads are a lifeline for many sites, but these are often loaded so poorly that they frustrate users. In addition, many complex sites have so much going on that these are heavy to load and content gets loaded whenever it’s ready. This can also result in content or CTAs that jumps around on screen, making room for slower loading content. 

Take CNN.com, for instance. News websites are typically very complex and slow to load, and CNN is no exception. It scores really badly on a PageSpeed Insights test. If you look at the issues and the corresponding tips further down the page, you’ll notice that no less than five moving elements were found at the time of writing. When loading this page, it leads to a lot of elements jumping around, and it takes a while for it to stabilize and be useful. And because users aren’t always that patient, they try to click a button at the moment it appears on screen — only to miss it because a big ad appears in that spot.

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

What you need to know

The Cumulative Layout Shift compares frames to determine the movement of elements. It takes all the points at which layout shifts happen and calculates the severity of those movements. Google considers anything below 0.1 good, while anything from 0.1 to 0.25 needs work. You can consider everything above 0.25 as poor. 

The scores for CLS

Of course, the score only looks at unexpected shifts. If a user clicks the menu button and a fold-out menu appears, that doesn’t count as a layout shift. But if that button does call a big change in design, you should make sure to keep that clear for the user.

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

Developers don’t always specify the width and height of an image in the code and leaving it up to the browser to figure out how the image should appear on screen. On a page with some images and text, the text will appear on screen first, followed by the images. If the developer hasn’t reserved space for these images, the top part of the loading page will be filled with text, prompting the user to start reading. The images, however, load later and appear in the spot where the text was first. This pushes the text down, getting the user agitated. So, always specify the width and height of images in the CSS to reserve a spot for the images to load.

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

Tools to measure Web Vitals

There are loads of tools to help you monitor Web Vitals and improve the performance of your site. I’ve mentioned a lot of them in the first Page experience post I wrote some time ago. You can see them listed there. Here, I’d like to highlight the most important ones:

  • PageSpeed Insights: PageSpeed Insights has turned into a full-service measuring tool with both field as well as lab data. In addition, you get advice on what to improve.
  • Lighthouse: Google built Lighthouse as a tool to audit PWAs, but now it’s a great tool to monitor performance. It has several audits that PageSpeed Insights doesn’t have and it even has some SEO checks.
  • Search Console Core Web Vitals report: You can now get insights from your site straight from Search Console! Great to get a feel for how your site is performing.

These are the Core Web Vitals

Sometime in 2021, Google will update their algorithms to incorporate a new ranking factor: page experience. To measure page experience, Google developed a new set of metrics called the Web Vitals. Within these Web Vitals, you can find three core metrics: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Content Layout Shift. These stand for performance, responsiveness and visual stability — the three pillars of Google’s page experience update.

Keep focusing on your users and build an awesome site!

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

3 SEO quick wins to implement right now

We all want to increase our sales, lift engagement, and get the best possible result out of our website. That’s why it only seems right to give you a three-step rocket of SEO quick wins to kick-start your website. In this post, I will show you three things you can do right now to improve your website for your visitors, and for Google in the process. Let’s dive right in with number one.

#1 Optimize speed

It doesn’t matter whether you want to improve your mobile website or your desktop website, speed is something you need to monitor and improve all the time. These are fast times, and speed is definitely what you want to optimize for.

In a simple breakdown of speed optimization, we have images, browser caching, and script optimization. Both PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom will tell you that. Another factor that plays a role in speed optimization is text compression with GZIP. But in my opinion, that should be enabled by default. Let’s have a look at the other three:

Image file size optimization

Optimizing your file size can increase the speed of your site and is also an important part of image SEO. So let’s start there. Here are a few steps you can take to optimize your file size:

  • Optimize the image file size in Photoshop (or any other image editing program you use). Usually, just exporting the image in a lower quality will do the trick. I usually check whether reducing the quality to around 80% of the original still gives me a crisp image.
  • Download an application like ImageOptim or use a web app such as Squoosh and further optimize your file size before uploading.
  • Last but not least, make sure that the image dimensions of your image fit the image ‘space’ that you reserved for it on the page. Don’t display a 1200×400 pixel photo as a 300×100 pixel image by adding CSS or whatever.

Browser caching

Browser caching is the way your browser stores files of a website, so it doesn’t have to load them from the internet every time you visit another page of a site. An example on our own site is the logo you see at the top of the site. Storing these files obviously saves time.

There are many ways to go about this, but if you have a WordPress site the easiest way is probably using a plugin. Most speed optimization plugins support browser caching and set them to the right time for you. Among some of my favorite speed plugins are WP SuperCache, which is free, and WP Rocket, which is a premium plugin and awesome.

Optimize script handling

You can load a gazillion JavaScript (JS) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files to enhance your website, but in the end, all these extra files just slow your website down. Please ask yourself the following questions to optimize your script handling:

  1. Are you sure you need that enhancement? JS and CSS usually target design and user experience. In some cases, you just don’t need that enhancement. Like JS and CSS loaded for sliders, for instance. There are alternatives to sliders that work better and don’t require extra files.
  2. Is there a way to reduce the file size of your scripts/styles? We call this process ‘minifying’ and explain this further in an Ask Yoast video. Google has some great pointers on how to approach this. Simple scripts and handy websites can help you minify your files, for instance by stripping comments. Most platforms have plugins or extensions that help with this. To give an example, Magento has the Fooman Speedster (free and paid) for that.
  3. Is it possible to combine a number of these scripts into one file? That way, there only has to be one call to the server to retrieve all the scripts. Again, there are plugins for that, but if you have small pieces of JS, you might as well combine these yourself. Of course, HTTP/2 changed some of these optimization practices. Make sure to test this!

Read more: Improving site speed: Tools and suggestions »

#2 Mobile optimization

It’s quite tempting to copy our ultimate guide to mobile SEO here, but let’s focus on the quick wins. An important reason to focus on mobile SEO these days is Google’s mobile-first index. Since July 2019, Google determines rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of a site instead of your desktop version. So, let’s get that mobile version up and running, right?

Task-based design

Have a look at your mobile website. Imagine you are a fresh, new user of your website. What would that user want to do here and is your site ready for that? Focus on a task-based design. If someone visits a mobile website, they might need opening hours or an address. Just a while ago, I purchased tickets for the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum on my mobile phone. Saved a buck and didn’t have to get in line for tickets. I did this, walking from my car to the entrance. One needs to be able to complete these basic tasks without any problem. Ask yourself what the four, perhaps five, main goals of a visitor on your site are and make sure these can be achieved on your mobile website.

Performance-based design

Are you loading any huge images on your site? Do people have to scroll for ages to read what you have to offer them? On a mobile website, we want to find what we need and get out as fast as possible – unless it’s, for instance, a news website. Loading time is a factor on mobile sites, especially with mobile connections usually being slower than most desktop connections. Make sure your design and content don’t depend on large images too much. And yes, of course, there are exceptions to that rule. If I visit a photographer’s website, I can assume that I’m in for longer loading times. When visiting this type of website, I want crisp images and that’s the price I pay. So be sure to optimize to an acceptable level for your target audience.

Write great content

This goes for the mobile and desktop version of your site: they need great content. A quick win for mobile content is to add a to-the-point first paragraph on every page. If you tell your visitor what’s on your page, they can decide for themselves if they want to scroll down or not. This is easily done and definitely benefits the experience of your visitor.

And of course, the content that comes after this first paragraph needs to be awesome as well. To tackle that, you’ll need to do keyword research, set up a great site structure and decide on cornerstone content. But you can imagine that this is a slightly lengthier process, and we’re talking quick wins here :)

#3 Serve your content in the right format

There are so many ways to serve your content to Google, Facebook and your visitors. Your task is to investigate which formats you should invest in. Some take a bit more time to implement; others can be added to your website by the push of a button, like with a plugin. Let’s go over a few important ones.

Better social sharing: Open Graph

Forget about Twitter Cards for now, as Twitter has a fallback to Open Graph. So, add Open Graph to your website if you haven’t done this already. It’s like a social summary of your website. To give you an example, for our homepage it reads (among other things):

<meta property="og:locale" content="en_US" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" />
<meta property="og:title" content="SEO for everyone &bull; Yoast" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Yoast helps you with your website optimization, whether it be through our widely used SEO software or our online SEO courses: we're here to help." />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://yoast.com/" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Yoast" />
<meta property="article:publisher" content="https://www.facebook.com/yoast" />
<meta property="article:author" content="https://www.facebook.com/jdevalk" />
<meta property="article:modified_time" content="2020-02-18T13:24:20+00:00" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://yoast.com/app/uploads/2018/03/SEO_for_everyone_FI.png" />
<meta property="og:image:width" content="1200" />
<meta property="og:image:height" content="628" />
<meta name="twitter:card" content="summary_large_image" />
<meta name="twitter:creator" content="@jdevalk" />
<meta name="twitter:site" content="@yoast" />

There’s a page/site title and a summary plus link, which tells Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter all it needs to know to create a great post on your visitor’s timeline. The og:image creates a richer experience. Be sure to add this. Again, use a plugin like Yoast SEO for TYPO3 to automate the process (and add these Twitter Cards along with Open Graph in no time).

Keep reading: Social media optimization with OpenGraph in Yoast SEO »

Quick reads on other platforms: AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP, aim to strip your website to the bare necessities to deliver your reader the best mobile experience they can get. If they want to read your article, AMP will give them just your article in basic design. If you want to check a certain product, AMP will strip much of the heavy loading stuff from the store to deliver something more focused. Is this a bad thing? I think not. Every way you can help your visitor get a better experience increases the chance of them coming back to your content and site. It might even increase sales because it’s so focused. I suggest reading up on AMP and getting your site ready — if you want. Again: plugins will help you out with this!

Tell Google what your page is about: Schema.org

I will end this list of quick SEO wins with something we’ve been telling you about for quite some time: add Schema.org to your website. Structured data, like Open Graph and Schema.org, create a convenient summary of your website for every other site or search engine that wants to use your content. Schema.org data is one of the main types of structured data. JSON-LD gives us a convenient way of adding it to our website.

Yoast SEO does a lot of work behind the scenes and automatically adds a broad spectrum of Schema.org structured data. In addition, the free structured data content blocks in Yoast SEO help you build FAQ pages and how-to articles with valid Schema.org structured data. Our Local SEO plugin adds the right Schema.org so that Google can add your company to Google Maps as well, for instance. Add Schema.org data to your website and see your company appear in the knowledge graph as well.

Serving your content in the right format is essential in delivering it to other ‘places’ on the website. Be sure to use it. And if you’re not sure what structured data you should use to optimize your pages, be sure to enroll in our structured data training which is part of our Technical SEO training.

Bonus tip! Don’t forget internal linking

I know I said 3 quick wins, but I have another bonus tip that I want to share with you. Internal linking makes your site easier to understand for users and search engines. That’s why the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO. And an easy and quick way to improve your internal link structure is by using our internal linking suggestion tool, which gives you suggestions for related internal links on every page or post!

Recap: the 3 SEO quick wins

There’s a lot you can do that benefits SEO. And this article gets you started with a few quick wins to increase your chances of ranking high in Google. Let’s summarize what we discussed.

First of all, you can improve the speed of your site by optimizing your (image) file sizes, being smart about browser caching and optimizing script handling. Secondly, it’s important to focus on your mobile site by having a task-based and performance-based design and writing great content for your mobile version. Thirdly, make sure to serve your content in the right format by using Open Graph, making good use of AMP and adding Schema.org to your site. Lastly, a bonus tip is to get started with internal linking. That’s it, you’re all set. So let’s get optimizing, good luck!

Read on: Must-reads for higher rankings »

The post 3 SEO quick wins to implement right now appeared first on Yoast.

What is a progressive web app (PWA)? Why would you want one?

It’s been years since the beginning of the age of the smartphone. With it came the era of native apps. Apps continue to play a massive role in our daily life, and many business owners have asked themselves multiple times: should we have an app? Of course, the only answer to that is — it depends. Building and maintaining a native app is cumbersome and often quite expensive. Luckily, there is another option. This option combines the joys of a native app with the technology we use on the web: the progressive web app, a.k.a. PWA.

What is a PWA?

Twitter.com is a PWA

PWA stands for progressive web app. This is an app built from the web technologies we all know and love, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but with a feel and functionality that rivals an actual native app. Thanks to a couple of smart additions, you can turn almost any website into a progressive web app. This means that you can build a PWA rather quickly, in regards to a native app that’s pretty difficult to develop. Plus, you can offer all the features of native apps, like push notifications, offline support, and much more.

Many sites you find online are actually a progressive web app. Take twitter.com, for instance. If you visit that site on your smartphone, you can install it to your home screen. Now, on opening the saved Twitter site, you’ll notice that it looks and performs just like a native app. There’s no browser window or nothing. There’s no difference in running it from an iPhone or an Android smartphone. Simply log in and you’re good to go. That’s a major benefit of building your web app with a PWA in mind.

PWAs are gaining popularity. Many big sites are PWAs, like Starbucks.com, Pinterest.com, Washingtonpost.com and Uber.com are actually installable on your home screen and offer a comparable experience to their native apps.

What’s the difference between a native app and a PWA?

A native app, like the ones you download from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, is often built in a programming language specific to that platform. So for iOS apps, that would be Swift and for Android apps, Java. If you want to build an app for those platforms, you need to know the technology. Yes, there are shortcuts, but these come with their own limitations. If you want to have an app on all the mobile platforms, you need to know all the different technologies. There’s no easy way to build one and publish it to all the stores out there.

Of course, there are ways to get the best of both worlds. A progressive web app, for instance. This runs in the browser and — once saved to the home screen — functions like a native app. It even gets access to the underlying hardware and software that the browser can’t access for safety reasons. If the PWA performs great, users will never know that they are using a web-based app instead of a native one.

There are some caveats, of course. While browsers have been quick to adopt the technology for this, there are still some limitations. On iOS, the technology needed works spotty in Safari. Apple doesn’t (want to) support everything yet, making it a bit of a chore to get the same exact experience everywhere.

What are the benefits of a PWA?

The main reason why everyone is chasing after apps is because they offer greater engagement. Users who install your app are your biggest fans and they are more likely to turn their usage into sales or signups. Thanks to push notifications it’s much easier to re-engage with users. Apps can offer an excellent experience that can do well for a brand.

We talked about some of the plusses of PWAs in this article, but here’s a short overview:

  • You don’t have to go through the process to get into different app stores
  • You can build PWAs with common web technologies
  • They are often cheaper to build
  • Since you’re turning your site into an app, you’ll have fewer code-bases to maintain
  • PWAs are responsive and work with many different screen sizes
  • PWAs are smooth, fast and lightweight
  • No need to hand off big chunks of money to Google and Apple
  • They work offline, unlike your regular site
  • PWAs are discoverable via search engines (which have a lot larger audience than app stores. Plus, if you want you can still get your PWAs distributed via app stores)
  • You can use push notifications to re-engage users
  • Installing a PWA can lead to higher engagement

Still, native apps win out sometimes. PWAs get deeper and deeper access to the operating system of a smartphone, but a native app can go deeper still. Plus, there are limits to what a PWA can do. For instance, PWAs are not the best choice when you want to build high-performance games.

All in all, it makes a lot of sense to think about having a PWA in your mobile strategy. But, the main question you should ask yourself is: does my audience want this?

Who’s this for?

Should everyone simply build a PWA and be done with it? No, consider your business and — more importantly — your target audience. Are they even using apps? Isn’t this an overly complex way of getting to what you want to achieve? Again, like everything, you need to research the needs of your audience. Ask yourself, what do you want this technology to do? Where are your users? Do they have a good data connection and solid hardware? How and where are they using your content? And do you think an app can help them do their job better?

PWAs are awesome and implementing them doesn’t have to be all that hard. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you should do it. If your audience has no need for it, why would you build one?

What are the SEO concerns of a PWA?

The PWA is inherently web-centric. It was born from the web and developed with search engines in mind to make discovery easy. Of course, you can make a progressive web app out of any-old site and it doesn’t take much to do so. However, many PWAs use JavaScript to build more complex functionality and while search engines have become apt at rendering JavaScript, it can still be a cause for concern.

When setting up a PWA, you have to make sure your JavaScript is accessible. Don’t block files for bots and make sure that links are available. To improve the rendering process you can make your JavaScript framework use server-side rendering.

Turning your site into a PWA doesn’t mean you directly improve the SEO of that site. If it makes sense to turn your site into a PWA, do so, but don’t do it for any perceived SEO benefits. If you have a great PWA, you are offering your users a fantastic user experience, which might make you one-up your competition. In this regard, it’s a good idea to take a look at them for your mobile SEO strategy.

What are the three main building blocks?

It doesn’t take much to set up a PWA. There are three things you need to provide before your site turns into a valid PWA.

  • A secure connection (HTTPS): PWAs only work on trusted connections, you have to serve them over a secure connection. This is not only for security reasons, but it’s also a very important trust factor for users.
  • A service worker: A service worker is a piece of script that runs in the background. This helps you determine how to handle network requests for your PWA, making it possible to do more complex work.
  • The manifest file: This JSON file contains information on how your PWA should appear and function. Here, you determine the name, description, icons, colors, et cetera.

Here’s a sample manifest from Google:

{
  "short_name": "Weather",
  "name": "Weather: Do I need an umbrella?",
  "description": "Weather forecast information",
  "icons": [
    {
      "src": "/images/icons-192.png",
      "type": "image/png",
      "sizes": "192x192"
    },
    {
      "src": "/images/icons-512.png",
      "type": "image/png",
      "sizes": "512x512"
    }
  ],
  "start_url": "/?source=pwa",
  "background_color": "#3367D6",
  "display": "standalone",
  "scope": "/",
  "theme_color": "#3367D6"
}

It doesn’t look too hard, right? A couple of interesting things in this listing:

  • start-url: this determines where your app should start. It’s better to let users land on a specific page for you PWA.
  • display: this helps you determine what type of browser UI you want to show. Options are fullscreen, standalone, minimal-ui and the standard browser interface.

These three things listed above are the minimal requirements for running a PWA. You can expand the functionality via JavaScript (frameworks).

How to set up a PWA?

There are plenty of resources to try your hand at building a simple PWA. This allows you to get a feel for the process. Google has an excellent, easy to follow tutorial on PWAS on the web.dev site. Mozilla has lots of documentation on building progressive web apps. Microsoft also has rich developer docs on building PWAs. Microsoft even built a tool called PWABuilder that’ll help you turn your site into a PWA. Of course, there are WordPress plugins that help you make a PWA of your site. In addition, Google is working on bringing base-support for PWAs to WordPress Core.

Engage your users with a progressive web app

Progressive web apps can be a great addition to your mobile toolkit. Done well, they are fast, work offline and perform like a native app. All in all, they can offer your users an awesome user experience. Engaged users are happy users, right?

The post What is a progressive web app (PWA)? Why would you want one? 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.

Copywriting for mobile

Mobile traffic is important. People are searching and reading on their mobile devices more than ever. What does that mean for your copy? Do you need to write differently if you’re aiming at a ‘mobile’ audience? How do you tackle copywriting for mobile? Here, I’ll share some useful tips on how to write awesome texts that can be read on both desktops and mobile devices.

Why is copywriting for mobile different?

Reading on a mobile device is different from reading on a desktop, mainly because the screen is much smaller. Texts appear stretched on a mobile device, as people have to scroll much more. Besides that, people reading from a mobile device can be anywhere. Lots of people use their mobile device ‘on the go’, while also doing other things. Their attention span and their concentration are very limited. That’s what makes writing for mobile challenging. 

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

SEO copywriting training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

Tip 1: Always focus on your audience

The mobile phone will not read your post, but your audience will. And perhaps your audience likes reading from their phones. In that case, you can improve their reading experience a lot with the tips in this blog post. But the first thing to keep in mind is that your content should always be focused on what your audience wants and expects from you. That does not change if you start writing for mobile (too). By focusing on the question ‘how can I write best for mobile,’ you should never lose track of the most important issue: ‘what does my audience like?’.

Tip 2: Make your fonts large enough

Font size is important for the mobile UX of blogs. You can’t just use all your desktop font sizes on your mobile website, without checking how they look on a mobile device.

It’s important that people can read your base font – your paragraph font – without having to pinch and zoom. Also, make sure there’s sufficient white space between sentences. Mobile websites are usually browsed with a thumb. Your visitors should be able to click on elements with that thumb.

Be aware that your mobile site will look messy when you use more than three font sizes. The size differences will be much more visible. That’s why we advise limiting the number of font sizes to two, maybe three.

Read more: ‘10 ways to improve mobile UX’ »

Tip 3: Write short sentences

A sentence of 25 words takes up two lines on an average desktop screen. For a mobile screen, this will be four lines. Longer sentences will be spread over even more lines, and that makes remembering words in the short term memory even harder. So don’t use too many long sentences. It’ll make reading your text much more difficult. This is true for desktop as well, but it’s even more important when you write for a mobile audience.

Tip 4: Check your subheadings and white space

Paragraphs will quickly appear very long because they get stretched out on a mobile screen. You should limit the number of sentences in a paragraph and use sufficient white space. That’ll make a text much easier to digest. Informative subheadings that reveal what a paragraph is about will help people understand your text. Good subheadings will also increase the chance your audience will stay engaged, even if a lot is going on around them.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Tip 5: Keep an eye on text-structure

The structure of your text should be just flawless. In a well-structured text, paragraphs follow in a logical order. Within paragraphs, sentences also connect to each other. So make sure to use lots of transition words. These words will help people understand the meaning of your text.

If your text is well structured, people will more easily understand the main message of your post. If your audience is unable to grasp that main message, they will get lost and tune out.

Conclusion: readability is of the utmost importance on mobile

Copywriting for mobile is not that different from writing for a desktop. In both cases, you need to write for a real audience. ‘Mobile’ texts do demand an even better readability than ‘desktop’ texts. That’s because reading from a mobile screen is more challenging than reading from a desktop. But, if you make sure your readability is top-notch, your texts will have loads of readers, on both mobile devices and desktops.

Keep reading: ‘Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

Mobile SEO: The ultimate guide

We are addicted to our smartphones. For many people, the smartphone is the first thing they check when they get out of bed in the morning and the last thing they look at before they go to sleep. People use them for everything – it’s become huge! Mobile phones have dramatically changed our lives, the way we use the web and, consequently, it has changed SEO. Mobile SEO helps you to reach customers and satisfy their needs while enjoying the experience. This guide to mobile SEO tells you everything you need to know to deliver the perfect mobile experience.

What is mobile SEO?

Mobile SEO is all about offering an exceptional experience to visitors of your mobile site. It’s about making your mobile site load quickly and without issues, and presenting stellar content that matches the users search intent. In today’s mobile-first world, it’s incredibly important to have flawless mobile site.

Why is mobile SEO so important?

Mobile SEO is crucial because it helps you reach your your customers in the right place at the right time and and give them the very best experience. Mobile traffic has now eclipsed desktop traffic. Every day, more and more people are discovering the enormous advantages of the smartphone. Our whole lives are in these devices – it’s almost scary to see how attached we’ve become to our smartphones. Many people call it an extension of themselves and something they can’t live without. To reach these people you need a mobile SEO strategy.

Mobile does not necessarily mean on-the-go. Studies have found that people often grab the nearest device to look something up quickly and more often than not, that’s their smartphone. They use it to inform themselves about products before making the decision to buy something, any time, any place. According to research by Google, smartphone users have a higher buyer intent than desktop users. They’re focused and ready to buy. It’s your job to be there when they are looking for your products or services.

It is easy to see mobile SEO in terms of solving technical problems or content issues, but it is also very much a user experience and branding thing. Getting a bad experience from a brand on a mobile phone might scare away a potential customer forever. Offering a great experience increases the chance of consumers recommending your brand.

According to Google research, negative mobile experiences can really hurt your brand

Mobile SEO vs. desktop SEO

There’s quite a difference between desktop SEO and mobile SEO, but the goals are often comparable. You want to reach your audience and convert them into paying customers. In some ways, desktop SEO tactics also work for mobile SEO, but in a slightly different form. Three major themes still apply: focus on performance, user experience and content. In desktop SEO you’ll often focus more on the general public, while mobile SEO has more of a local focus.

What is different, though, is the results you get on mobile versus desktop. For the same search query, different results may pop up depending on what device you are using. Plus, there are other factors that influence the mobile search results, like the location you’re at. This means that getting a good ranking for your product or content on desktop doesn’t guarantee the same result on mobile. When evaluating your performance on mobile, alway keep an eye on the mobile search results.

In addition, it is always a good idea to regularly check what Google is doing on mobile, in general, but especially in your niche. Google is continuing its push for so-called rich results — often powered by structured data — and these are more prominent on mobile. Think about it: searching for flights, events, jobs, movies, music, products and even simple facts will trigger a Google-owned rich result. We’re going to see a lot more of this going forward.

Google’s mobile-first index is live

The importance of mobile SEO is made even clearer by Google’s 2016 announcement of the mobile-first index. In July 2019, Google switched to the mobile-first index. What does this mean? For the first time, Google will determine rankings based on the quality of the mobile version of the site instead of the desktop version.

A smartphone version of Googlebot will crawl your mobile site and determine if its performance, content and user experience are up to scratch. If so, you get a better ranking. If it is lacking, other sites will rank higher and you could lose out. Even if you’re not focusing on mobile you will still be judged by your mobile site, so now’s the time to take action.

What’s more, in January 2018, Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches from July of that same year:

“The “Speed Update” applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

Check Search Console to see what Google used to crawl your pages

Things have changed

Right now, Google uses mobile-first indexing when evaluating new sites. Sites it knows about will still be evaluated on a per-site basis to see if they are fit for inclusion. To get Google to discover and understand it properly you must keep your mobile site crawlable by taking down all possible barriers such as poorly loading scripts and not blocking stuff in your robots.txt. It also has to load lightning fast if you want to be indexed well.

Google’s Gary Illyes wrote a blog post detailing some of the things you should take care of for the mobile-first index. These include offering the same awesome content on both the mobile and desktop site, investing in structured data, offering the correct meta data, checking your hreflang set up and making sure that your servers can handle the increased crawl rate.

You can no longer present less information on your mobile site than on your desktop site. Your content has to be identical on both, because you will only rank based on the information on your mobile page. Don’t hide stuff! Michiel wrote a post about the so-called mobile parity. Or, like former Googler Maile Ohye told us in an interview:

“To “optimize” for the 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 pared down version, or a version that gets updated later than desktop, or a version that redirects to the mobile homepage.”

Maile Ohye

Don’t forget to tell Google your site is mobile-friendly. You can add a viewport declaration – if you’re using responsive design – or a Vary header when using dynamic serving. More on this later – or in Google’s developer documentation.

Read more: 5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing »

How to improve mobile SEO

Mobile SEO is – just like regular SEO – all about making sure your site is crawlable and findable. Also, you need stellar performance, great content and a flawless UX. To get it right, you need to know how your site is currently performing and what your visitors are doing right now. For example, will people use the same keywords on mobile to find you? People often change how they search while using a mobile device. And what do you want people to do? Offering to navigate to the nearest Whole Foods is less than ideal when you’re on a desktop machine. It makes total sense on your smartphone, though.

Mobile SEO tools

You need to become best friends with Google Search Console. Its search tools are legendary and a big help if you want to find out how your site is doing in the search results. For instance, by using the Search Analytics feature, you can see how mobile and desktop users use words to find what they need. Are you targeting the right words? Should you focus on something else?

Googlebot needs to be able to crawl your JavaScript, CSS and image files to index it properly. There is a handy tool for this inside Search Console: URL Inspection. This tool lets you see exactly how Googlebot sees and renders your content. When the screen doesn’t align and the tool lists errors, you’ve got work to do.

Search Console lets you check how Google sees your mobile site

Mobile Usability tool

Another Google Search Console feature that makes your life easier is the Mobile Usability tool. This tool checks your site and presents an overview of posts and pages that don’t follow Google’s mobile-friendly rules. This is an excellent way to start improving your mobile SEO.

Other tools

Some other great tools to up your mobile SEO game are Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, Rich Results Test, Lighthouse, Analytics, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Ryte, ScreamingFrog, and SimilarWeb.

Read more: Google Search Console: Search appearance
Read more: DIY: Test your mobile site

Mobile SEO is designing for performance

The number one thing you should be focusing on when you’re trying to improve mobile SEO is performance. Performance almost entirely boils down to site speed. It’s a no-brainer: the faster your site is, the happier your users will be. It’s well known that a site has to load within a couple of seconds or your visitors will give up and go elsewhere. If you combine this with the fact that sites are only getting bigger, it’s clear you have your work cut out.

Better get to work on that page load time

Optimizing performance, however, is a continuous process. Your site will never be fast enough because there’s always more you can improve – and that’s ok. By keeping a close watch on how your mobile site is performing, you can immediately jump onto every opportunity to improve it. Google loves fast sites, and so do your customers.

Read more: How to improve your mobile site
Read more: Page speed as a ranking factor, what you need to know

Responsive design vs. dynamic serving vs. separate domain

While developing your mobile site, you’ll have three options: responsive design, dynamic serving, or a separate site on a subdomain. Google prefers responsive design because you only have one site that adapts to the device it’s used on. There’s only one code base, so maintenance is easy. According to Google, using responsive design will make your site eligible for addition in the new mobile-first index. Always let Google know that your site is mobile-friendly by adding the meta name=“viewport” declaration in the head of your documents.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

Dynamic serving takes a different approach. It uses server-side technology to serve a different version of your site to mobile users, depending on the way they access your site. The URL stays the same, but the files sent are completely different. You need to add the Vary header to get Google to crawl your site. This way, Google immediately knows that it will receive mobile-optimized files from somewhere else. A Vary header appears like this when a browser makes a request:

Vary: User-Agent

The third option is a separate mobile site on a different URL – usually an m. domain – and with different content. Google supports this method, but only if you make the correct connections between your regular desktop domain and the mobile domain. Use rel="alternate" and rel="canonical" to tell Google how these pages are connected. More on these different types and how Google uses them on this Developers page. Or you can read our rel=”canonical” ultimate guide.

Improve site speed of your mobile site

One of the most importants aspects of mobile SEO is improving site speed. PageSpeed Insights shows you exactly how fast your site loads on both mobile and desktop. It also suggests performance improving enhancements. Use this alongside the Developer Tools in browsers and the Speed Report in Search Console to see how your site is rendering its contents.

The two most important things PageSpeed Insights looks at:

  • FCP (first contentful paint): The first contentful paint happens when the first element of a requested page appears on the screen. This gives users the confirmation that the page is actually loading.
  • FID (first input delay): The first input delay is the time between the first interaction of a user with an element on the requested page and the reaction of the browser to that input. How quickly your page reacts to input is of utmost importance for it to appear fast and responsive.

Type in your URL and Insights will give you two scores: one for mobile and one for desktop. These will be different. If your score is red, you have much work to do. Orange means an average performance and green is good. It’ll give you suggestions on enhancing the performance of your site. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll be on the right track.

I hear you thinking:

“Nobody has a score of 0/100, right?”

Well, think again. A combination of factors can do your mobile site a lot of harm. Find a bad hosting provider, install WordPress on a crappy shared hosting platform, activate thirty plugins and upload a hundred non-optimized images to your blog and you are going to score badly. But these things can easily be fixed. Run PageSpeed Insights and other speed analyses tools and follow their advice.

What can you do to improve your site speed?

When improving your page speed, you should always ask yourself if you need all these assets, libraries, images, plugins, theme features and so on. The famous saying “less is more” is still as valuable as ever.

Read more: Site speed tools and suggestions »

Think about implementing AMP

The Google-led open source project AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, has one goal: loading your pages as fast as possible. It’s been in development for some time now and making great strides. It is, however, a controversial technology, but since Google is pushing this so hard, it will be increasingly hard to do without it.

In the beginning, AMP was used on static posts, like blogs or news articles, that didn’t need interaction from the user. For e-commerce purposes and other dynamic types of pages, AMP fell short – until a year or so, that is. Today, AMP is capable of powering canonical sites, with more to come. Look into what AMP could do for your site and how you might implement it. Not every site needs it, but the ones that do could gain an awful lot from it.

Read more about implementing AMP with WordPress »

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

PWAs offers another way of targeting mobile users. A progressive web app is an all-in-one solution that works on all devices, for all users. It’s the perfect crossover between the app world and the web world. The web app works like an app, without the need to publish it in an app store. PWAs combine the load speeds of mobile sites with the best functionality of a native app. When done correctly, a good PWA might fool users into thinking they are using a native app. Google has a must-read blog post if you want to know how to create indexable PWAs.

Thanks to technologies like service workers, the browser can do a lot more in the background, while keeping the front end updated in real-time. This makes it a good option if you need an app, but can’t justify the cost. There will be a lot happening with progressive web apps in the next couple of years. Every major browser — both mobile and desktop — now supports service workers, even Apple’s Safari on MacOS and iOS. There are, however, still some kinks to be ironed out before Apple’s implementation is solid.

Focus on user experience

Besides being easily found and lightning fast, your mobile site should offer an enjoyable user experience. Find out which common tasks your customers have on your site. What is their search intent? Try to remove any obstacles and make sure users can achieve their goals quickly. There’s a lot you need to consider when optimizing user experience. Here are a couple of things you need to think about:

  • First and foremost: don’t forget your customer!
  • Make your site mobile site useful and enjoyable
  • Fix your font size: your typography needs to be top notch.
  • Keep enough room between the clickable elements.
  • Make your sub-menu clickable, so users don’t automatically go back to home instead of the submenu.
  • Put your phone number on the homepage and make it clickable. This way, people can call you if they want to do business.
  • Don’t make users pinch and zoom to see – and use – your interface.
  • Make your buttons large enough for fingers.
  • Fix your forms: bad forms are unusable on mobile.
  • Cut the clutter.
  • Test, adjust and test again!

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

Optimize for local

While we use our smartphones a lot in our homes, these devices become even more useful when we’re out and about. Google found that 76% of people who searched for something nearby visited a related business within a day. 28% of those visits led to a sale.

To cope with that local demand, or so-called near me searches, you need to work on your local SEO. Local search results can look very different from regular desktop searches, so you have to know what to target and how to target it. Here are some ways you can improve your local SEO for mobile:

Read more: Ultimate guide to small business SEO
Read more: Local ranking factors that help your business’ SEO

Finetune your mobile content

Smartphone screens are small. On that screen, text gets truncated and wrapped in a seemingly never-ending stream of paragraphs. Users have to scroll endlessly. Text on a mobile screen has the potential to give any web designer a headache. But the design – and use – of text is of crucial importance to the success of your site. If your site is unreadable or just plain ugly, people will not read your 1,000-word article. Hell, maybe not even your 100-word summary. Fix your typography.

People read a lot on their smartphones, but you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. You also need to make sure that your content is up to scratch.

Read more: Optimize your mobile content

Write for the small screen

Always keep the restrictions of the small screen in mind when creating or editing content. Don’t use too many long sentences, keep your paragraphs to around four sentences and break up text using bullet points, lists and headings. Nothing is more daunting to your visitor than a massive block of unformatted text. Check your content on a smartphone to see how it looks and find ways to improve it.

Read more: Copywriting for mobile

Write better meta descriptions and titles

Google shows less information in the search results on mobile than on a desktop. Your meta descriptions and your titles will be truncated if you make them too long. Think about that when you optimize your posts and pages. You lose several characters when optimizing your meta descriptions and titles for mobile. In Yoast SEO’s snippet editor, you can switch between a mobile and desktop preview. This way, you can compare the differences between the two and find the perfect middle ground.

Read more: The snippet preview in Yoast SEO

Prepare for voice search

When working on your content, you should account for the next big thing: voice search. Yes, it’s been around for a while, but with the advent of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home assistant, things are moving fast. More and more people are using their voice to perform actions on the web, and your content has to provide the answers. If done correctly, you might kill two birds with one stone: you’ll not only respond to questions mobile users have, but it might also lead to so-called featured snippets or answer boxes on desktop searches. Getting a featured snippet almost guarantees your content to be a top answer for assistants. Curious what’s powering conversational search?

To prepare for voice search, you need to take a good look at your current content. Ask yourself, does it answer any question a user might have? If not, change it. Find out which questions people use to find your content and optimize for that. Use Google’s autofill or tools like Answer the Public to find ideas for questions to answer.

Read more: How to prepare for voice search

Add Schema structured data to a mobile site

Structured data is hot. By adding structured data in the form of Schema.org to your site, you can open a line of communication with search engines. Structured data makes it clear to search engines what all the different elements on your site mean. If done correctly, search engines can use this data to give you highlighted search results, known as rich results or rich snippets. This way, your site immediately stands out from the crowd, which could lead to a higher click-through rate.

Structured data allows for many new ways of presenting search results. The rich results we used to know as rich cards, for instance, uses data you can add to your mobile site. The result is a snippet that is mobile-optimized and very attractive to click. Since Google heavily investing in improving and expanding the types of rich results these might turn out to be your ticket to enhanced visibility. Try to get those featured snippets!

Structured data is one of the most important topics to get your head around. See our structured data course for an easy way to learn how to add structured data to your mobile site.

Yoast SEO takes care of your Schema needs

A mobile how-to rich result

Adding Schema to your site has always been a struggle — but not any more! Yoast SEO is making it easy for you. The popular SEO plugin automatically adds an extensive list of Schema structured data properties to your site. Not only that, Yoast SEO also ties everything together in a neat graph. This graph makes it incredibly easy for a search engine to understand the true meaning of your site. That’s not all, because the free Yoast SEO structured data content blocks turn the WordPress block editor into a helpful tool to craft FAQ pages and how-to articles — with more block types to come. Both of these Schema types have a relatively easy to get rich result on mobile attached to it as well.

Read more: Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide

A mobile SEO guide full of tips

This ultimate guide to mobile SEO gives you a lot of pointers to improve the performance of your mobile site. Mobile SEO should always be a work in progress because there are always new developments, but also technologies arrive and are superseded. The world is always changing, and you need to keep up. If you do, the rewards can be great.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your smartphone, check your site on a mobile browser and find and fix those issues. Use this mobile SEO guide well, because this is an important time! This is the time to take action because if you don’t, you might get left behind.

Keep reading: WordPress SEO: The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites »

The post Mobile SEO: The ultimate guide appeared first on Yoast.

Page speed as a ranking factor: what you need to know

It’s official: Google announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index. But what does that mean? There’s no beating around the bush anymore: you should work on making your site as fast and accessible as possible. Don’t wait, do it now. I mean it.

For years, we’ve been bombarded by one message: mobile is going to take over the world. We needed to adapt ourselves to this new reality where everyone does everything on their mobile devices. While we still spend loads of time in front of our desktop and laptop machines, we can’t deny mobile is crucial. Just look at the upcoming markets, where people use their mobile for all possible tasks.

We also know that if you want to compete with the big boys, get a solid ranking for your mobile site and make some money from it, you need to take care of a few things. One of the most important ones is page speed. 

Become a technical SEO expert with our Technical SEO 1 training! »

Technical SEO 1 training$ 199 - Buy now » Info

The verdict is in

Let’s look at some recent research: according to Google the average time it takes for a mobile landing page to load is now 22 seconds. Compare that with the three seconds visitors need to decide if they want to stay for your page to load and you will see a huge discrepancy. People are impatient. They want something, and they want it now. While page speed is important for your SEO, it is even more important for your UX, conversion and general customer happiness.

Yes, page speed will be a ranking factor

At the moment, page speed is more of an indicator than a ranking factor. Unless your mobile site is extremely slow, you can still get decent rankings with average page speeds. But it’s been proven time and time again that the speedier your site, the better your results will be.

Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%. That’s incredible. For search engines, better results and performance is a sign of a healthy site that pleases customers and therefore should be rewarded with a higher ranking.

Also, Google has recently gone on record saying that page speed will be a ranking factor in its upcoming mobile-first index. Details on how they will evaluate page speed for mobile and calculate rankings are still unknown. But, what we do know doesn’t change much from what we at Yoast have been saying for some time: make sure your site is responsive, as fast as possible, solidly structured, and full of excellent content.

5 ways to speed up your site

Do everything in your power to increase the loading speed of your mobile site. Everyone loves a fast site: we SEOs and search engines, but most importantly, our customers. Firstly, check Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what they advise you to do. Secondly, take a look at the size of your page, as many sites are bloated nowadays. Try to shave off as much as you can by optimizing images, compressing code and loading fewer external scripts and ads. In addition to that, here are five things you can work on:

Activate AMP on your pages

Google’s AMP project is meant to give the web a necessary speed boost. It’s not too hard to implement, and it will give your mobile site a life in the fast-lane. According to Google, AMP is not a ranking factor, but it’s not hard to predict it has a decent chance to become one. Read Google’s documentation on how to implement AMP.

Use HTTP2

That series of tubes we call the internet is at the dawn of a new age. Several new technologies will bring much-needed upgrades to the way the underlying infrastructure has been built. One of these is called HTTP2, and you can already use to speed up your site, barring it uses HTTPS. Find out more on performance optimization in an HTTP2 world.

Switch to PHP7

As we mainly use WordPress in these parts, getting everyone to use PHP7 is a big deal. To get everyone to move from unsupported and unsafe versions, like PHP5.2 and PHP5.3, we at Yoast created Project WHIP. Moving to PHP7 will give your WordPress site a speed boost, keep it secure and make it future proof.

General optimizations

You should already know these tactics. Please use a CDN to make sure that your content is delivered from a location close to the visitor. Use a caching plugin like WP Rocket to keep static parts of your site in the browser cache. Last but not least, please optimize images. That’s low-hanging fruit.

Critical rendering path

Running a PageSpeed Insights test will show you which elements block a page from rendering quickly. The critical rendering path is formed by the object – like CSS and JavaScript – that have to load before the content can show up on screen. If this content is blocked, your page will render slowly or not at all. Pay attention to this and keep the path free of obstacles. At modpagespeed.com you’ll find several open source tools to help you with these issues.

Always work on your page speed

Keep in mind that your work is never done. Your mobile site is never too fast, and your customers will never come flocking to you when you shave off just a little of your loading time. Keep working on it. Now, tomorrow and next month. If possible, try to automate your PageSpeed Insights testing, so you get regular updates. Follow the news to see if there are new ways to speed up your site.

Read more: ‘How to improve your mobile site’ »

SEO Basics: How to improve your mobile site

Here’s the thing: your site should be mobile-friendly. In fact, this might just be your number one priority. If you want to improve your mobile SEO, you have to improve the performance of your site, plus you have to make sure that it offers users an excellent mobile experience. In this SEO Basics article, you’ll find an overview of what you should do to improve your mobile site.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

When is a site mobile-friendly?

A site is mobile-friendly when it:

  • loads properly on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet,
  • loads lightning fast,
  • presents content in a readable fashion, without users having to pinch and zoom,
  • offers ample room to navigate by touch,
  • offers added value for mobile users,
  • is instantly understandable for search engines.

Why is mobile SEO important?

Mobile SEO makes sure your mobile site offers the best possible presentation of your content to a mobile device user. Since our world is increasingly mobile-oriented, it has become imperative that your site is mobile-friendly. If your site is not, or not properly, available for mobile users, you are going to miss out on a decent ranking in the search engines and thus miss income. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to make the mobile version of your site as good as possible. In fact, it should be excellent!

Since the beginning of this year, Google uses the mobile version of the site to determine its rankings. If your site is not up to scratch, or if you present less content on your mobile site, you will have a difficult time getting a good ranking. If you don’t have an adequate mobile version of your site yet, you best make a fully functioning one, preferably as a responsive design. Google has a great getting started guide to get you going.

How to improve your mobile website

To improve your mobile SEO, you need to focus on a couple of things:

  • Make sure your site is responsive
  • Improve your site speed
  • Don’t block JavaScript, HTML and CSS code
  • Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups
  • Don’t use too many redirects
  • Choose the correct viewport
  • Verify mobile-friendliness
  • Tell Google about your site

Responsive design

There are multiple ways to make your site available for mobile users. The most important one is responsive design, and this is the technology Google advocates. With a responsive design, your site lives on one URL, making it easier for Google to understand and index it.

If you use WordPress, chances are your theme is already responsive and can adapt to all screens. Be sure to check how your site scales in Google Chrome’s Developer Tools. If it doesn’t scale correctly, you should talk to your web developer about fixing it – or choose a different theme.

Improve your site speed

One of the most important things you can do to improve the mobile SEO of your site is to improve the loading speed of the site. Time and time again, studies show that people leave sites that load slowly, often never to return again. Speed has been a ranking factor for years, and Google is increasingly focusing on fixing this common issue.

For good SEO, you need a good user experience. Learn about UX & Conversion! »

UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Optimize images

If there is one quick win to improve your site speed, it is this: optimize your images. Don’t load those 3000 x 2000 pixel HD images in your site. Scale them to the correct size and make them smaller with a tool like ImageOptim or WordPress plugins like WP Smush.

Minify code

Every request your site has to make has an impact on site speed. You have to work on reducing these requests. One way of doing that is by minifying code. This means that you group and concatenate assets like JavaScript and CSS, and as a result, the browser has to load fewer files, leading to a faster site. This sounds hard to implement, but a plugin like WP Rocket can take care of all your caching needs.

Browser caching

By using browser caching, you’re telling the browser that page elements that don’t change often can be saved inside its cache. This way, the browser only has to download new and dynamic content whenever it visits again. Again, this is something a plugin like WP Rocket can help you with. Or you can also do it yourself if you like.

Reduce redirects

A redirect leads a visitor from one requested page to another, because the requested page was moved or deleted. While this leads to a good user experience if done well, the more redirects you use, the slower your site will be. Don’t make endless redirects. Also, try not to keep links around that point to deleted posts that are redirected to new ones. Always make direct links.

Don’t block assets like JavaScript, HTML and CSS

We’ve said it before, and we’re going to keep saying it: Don’t block assets like JavaScript, HTML and CSS. Doing so makes it harder for Google to access your site and that could lead to bad rankings. Check your Google Search Console to see if you’re blocking resources.

Improve legibility

Make sure that your mobile site is perfectly readable on mobile devices. Use different devices to check if your typography is in order and, when necessary, make changes. Typography can make or break the user experience of your site.

Improve tap target sizes

People hate it when their finger can’t hit a button, link or menu item without fault. Sometimes designers haven’t given enough thought about the size of the buttons. Mobile users get frustrated when navigation is hard or unnatural. Fix it.

Choose the correct viewport

The viewport determines the width of the page for the device used to view it. By specifying a correct viewport, you make sure that visitors with specific devices get the right version of your site. Fail to do this, and you might just show your desktop site to a small-screen smartphone user – a big no-no.

Don’t use interstitials or pop-ups

Starting this year, Google will penalize sites that use large pop-ups or interstitials to promote newsletters, sign-up forms or ads. These often get in the way of the user quickly accessing the content they requested. Don’t use these, but if you must, make sure you abide Google’s rules.

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

Test your site and tell Google about it

Before you start working on your mobile SEO, you should run a Mobile-Friendly Test on Google to see where you should start. During your work, you should keep testing to see if you make progress. If your site is optimized, you need to tell Google about it so that it can be checked and indexed. Use Search Console to stay on top of the performance of your site.

Investigate Google AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a new initiative by Google and others to get web pages to load super fast on mobile devices. By wrapping your content in special HTML code, you can optimize the pages in a way that Google can use to give them special treatment. Pages are cached by Google and presented with a stripped down presentation to make sure it gets delivered at light speed.

AMP is still relatively new, but growing rapidly. Nearly every site can benefit from incorporating this technique. If you have a WordPress site, it’s not hard to get started; just install the official plugin. This takes care of most of the setup. You can find more information in Google’s guidelines.

Conclusion

Mobile is the future, but that future is now. Do everything you can to fix your mobile site and make it perfect, not just in Google’s eyes, but, more importantly, your visitor’s. Mobile SEO is not just about great content and a flawless technical presentation, but more about creating a user experience to die for. Once you’ve achieved that, you’re on your way to the top!

Read more: ‘10 ways to improve mobile UX’ »

How to prepare for voice search

Voice search is picking up steam. You can now use your voice to search the web, play music, navigate home, order sushi or get the latest football results. Not a day goes by without news stories about search assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s – uh – nameless service. It seems like voice assistants are slowly taking over the world. In this article, I’ll elaborate on the rise of natural language and voice searches, plus give you tips on how to prepare your content for these new types of visitors.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What is voice search?

With voice search, you use your voice to perform actions on the web. In the past, people often laughed at voice assistants because they were slow and had difficulty understanding and answering questions. However, the current generation of assistants is on its way to becoming incredibly sophisticated. Almost every type of query is possible just by uttering it. We’re not there yet, though, to become a real asset to people’s lives, these devices and services have to take it up another notch. Accuracy is often still an issue.

But why voice? For one thing, it’s fast; people can speak much more rapidly than they can type. It’s convenient, because you can work hands-free and, most of the time, get instant, relevant results, be it in answer to a question or performing an action. In addition to that, the developments on using your voice as an interface, have resulted in a context-based system that uses many components to give you relevant results.

While the significant strides were made on mobile devices, it is now at home were voice operated devices find their place. Amazon has sold millions of Alexa enabled devices, and there’s no end in sight. Recently, Google went on the offensive with Google Home; it’s own smart home assistant.

A look at the data

If you look at data from Mary Meeker’s renowned annual trends report, you’ll see that the use of voice assistants is on the rise. In 2015, 65% of US smartphone owners used a voice assistant, up from 56% in 2014 and 30% in 2013. The main reason for this growth is the improvement of the technology. Meeker also suggests that Google voice queries were up 35 times since 2008 and seven times since 2010. The last one, in May 2016 one in five searches on Android devices in the US is voice activated.

voice search graph

From Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016

A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting showed that, while people were generally happy with the performance of voice assistants, they’d like them to answer more questions directly.

Expect search engines to double down on this

Why and how do people use voice search?

It might not come as a surprise that people use voice assistants because they’re convenient, especially when your hands are occupied. They’re a breeze to use, even more so for slow typers. Plus, people love getting fast, relevant results and many just plain enjoy the use of this kind of assistant. However, people rather use these services at home or in the car than on the go and at work. There still seems to be a psychological barrier to belt out search queries in a group of people.

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more! »

Local SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

What voice search means for SEO

Voice assistants use so-called conversational search queries to get an answer to an individual question. These kinds of queries are spoken in a full, natural language sentence, and the reply is in a whole sentence as well. This is something you have to keep in mind when working on your content SEO strategy. If you ask [What’s the weather in Amsterdam today?], you might get the answer [‘It’s cloudy today, with a slight chance of rain. The maximum temperature is 16C.’] If you’re on a screen-based device, this result might be accompanied by a screen showing you the conditions.

Google Hummingbird

Google made answering questions a priority in its Hummingbird update in 2013. This update was meant to change the way Google responds to queries people write or speak. Since Hummingbird, the context of every word in the search query is taken into account. It’s no longer about the words themselves, but what they represent or mean. If you need a reminder of what Hummingbird encompassed, watch Joost explain it all in this video. Hummingbird had a significant impact on how Google scanned your content and thus on your SEO tactics. It became incredibly important to structure your text properly.

The 5 Ws

Conversational searches tend to answer the classic 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why and how. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Who designed the Golden Gate Bridge?
  • What do I need for a BBQ?
  • When did Sesame Street air for the first time?
  • Where can I get the cheapest pizza in the Bronx?
  • Why do birds suddenly appear?
  • How did Google start?

You see that these natural language, conversational searches encompass more words than our typed searches. These are no keywords, but rather key phrases. If you want to rank for these kinds of phrases, you have to have an answer for these questions. Long-tail keywords play an important part in this. More on that in a minute.

The technology is getting smarter

In the early days, searching with your voice was clunky and error-prone. Many people just gave up in frustration. However, nowadays, voice operated technology is getting smart, fast. Think about it; you can now adjust the spelling of a search query if a result came up with the wrong keyword [night vs. knight]. Searches now take into account what was asked before, so you can ask additional questions to narrow down the results. So, you can ask a voice assistant to find all films by Kevin Spacey. After that, you can bring that down to just the ones he won an Oscar for. Or ones that co-star Morgan Freeman.

Context plays a big part in the recent developments of voice assistants. More and more, these assistants look at the world around you to give you relevant results or actions to take. If you’re at home, you might get different options than when you’re commuting to work. Or if you have a particular app running, an assistant might use that information to make an educated guess about what you are doing or what you might want to do. This is only the beginning; we will see a lot more developments on this front.

Now what?

So voice search changes how we search, and therefore we should closely examen the way we provide our content. If you want to answer the natural language questions people use to search for something, your content is the first thing that needs to be fixed. You need to ask yourself what questions your content is answering at this moment and find out if that aligns with the questions people ask. Is the answer all-encompassing or is it incomplete, thus not satisfying the needs of the visitor? You should also think about the readability; is it easy to understand, scannable and instantly comprehensible?

Take a long hard look at the conversational queries people use to find what they need. Not only look at your data but also check how your competitors are doing and see how they are trying to answer these questions. Use the autocomplete feature in search engines to see which questions often pop up.

Put the answers you find in a spot where search engines can easily filter them out. Don’t make it a long winding answer, but get to the point and serve it straight up.

An example of a question answered

Your content and HTML must join hands to respond to questions in the quickest way possible. Optimize the pieces of content you think are valuable for your visitors, plus the ones you suspect people will search for. To illustrate that, we’ll look at an example from Yoast.com. We are continually working on our content to get it highlighted in Google. That’s no easy task, but keep at it and it will work.

In this case, our article on cloaking affiliate links has been optimized in such a way that it can answer the question: [“How to cloak an affiliate link”]. Google figures out the question and the answer right from the content. In general, it helps if you use short answers, and present it with bullet points. If you use ten or more steps, Google will add a ‘read more’ link to the answer box, likely getting you a higher CTR. Answering questions in this way, not only gets your content ready for voice search but can also lead to featured snippets in Google, like the one below.

voice search featured snippet

Google answers a question directly, based on Yoast content

Google takes this piece of content to answer the question

Focus on long-tail keywords

To answer natural language questions correctly, you also need to work on your long-tail keywords. Since these spoken questions contain a lot more words than a typed search command [What is the best restaurant near De Dam in Amsterdam vs. Restaurant De Dam Amsterdam], you can use these extra words to rank for. It might make it a bit easier to rank higher for the phrases you want to be found for. You’ll also see that searchers will increasingly use terms like [best] or [nearest] to search for relevant results, so that’s something you need to keep in mind.

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

Content SEO$ 19 - Buy now » Info

Another good way to answer questions people may have is by adding a FAQ to your site or optimizing the one you already have. Collect the questions people ask and write a short, but relevant answer. Search engines can directly use these answers to give searchers a valid reply to their voice search commands.

Optimize your page for mobile use

In addition to offering valuable answers to questions people are asking, your page needs to work flawlessly on mobile devices. Check how it functions on multiple smartphones, tablets, and other gear. Is it perfectly accessible on these devices? Is it attractive, fast and easily readable?

It is also a good idea to invest in a proper Schema.org implementation because this gives your pages a lot more context for search engines. For instance, you could add Schema.org markup to your review page, so search engines have a valid source to identify your authority.

Conclusion

It sure looks like voice search is here to stay. This brings great opportunities for some, while others might be worried about search engines and digital assistants answering every possible question directly. Should you be worried? Well, that probably depends on your content. If you have high-value content, like recipes, you might be ok. Voice assistants won’t be able to read that recipe for you, yet. If your site offers basic calculation and conversion services, for instance, to calculate the number of teaspoons that fit in a cup, then it’s going to be harder for you to survive in a voice search world.

Regular, content-driven sites, need to be able to answer the question voice-driven searchers are looking for. To get your site ready for the slew of voice-activated searches, you need to think carefully about your content; does it answer the questions people have?

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »