The latest news in SEO and WordPress: July 2020

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

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

What’s new with Google and Bing?

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

Scroll to text

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

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

Licensing program for news publishers

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

Free product listings in the SERP

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

Bing Site Scan tool

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

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

What’s new in WordPress?

Web Stories (beta)

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

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

XML sitemaps in core

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

What’s new in Yoast?

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

Duplicate Post

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

Improved publishing workflow

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

Rel attributes for links

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

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

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Announcement: Duplicate Post joins Yoast

Today, we’re very proud to announce that Yoast has acquired the Duplicate Post plugin. This plugin, with well over 3 million users, is one of the most popular WordPress plugins right now. The reason for that is clear: it does one task simple and well. Also, its original developer, Enrico Battocchi, will join Yoast as a senior developer and will remain one of the leading developers on the plugin.

Why did we acquire Duplicate Post?

We see that there are multiple reasons for using the Duplicate Post plugin. These range from people who use it to republish existing articles with a proper review step, to people who simply don’t want to recreate an entire page layout every time. All of these actions are very useful, and most of them have some impact, either positive or negative, on SEO. We feel that by building better integrations between Yoast SEO and Duplicate Post we can further simplify people’s workflows and help them maintain their site health.

When I started talking to Enrico about this we quickly figured out that we could work together more efficiently if he joined Yoast. Enrico created Duplicate Post well over 10 years ago and he’s taken great care of it so far. We want to thank him for that and certainly not take that out of his hands completely. He’ll still have an important voice in its future development. In fact, some features we suggested, he’d already wanted to build but simply lacked the time and resources to do so. And that’s why this transaction happened.

Enrico shared his thoughts in his own blog post here. But we’ll give you a sneak peek of what he has to say:

“I‘m excited to join them because I’m confident that Yoast will be a great new home for Duplicate Post, and its users will benefit from all the advantages of an inventive company that can provide quality, support, and vision for the future.

So, what are we going to do with it?

I’ll be honest: I don’t like talking about features until they’re done. One of the first things we’ll do is improve on the plugin’s accessibility. One of our other Italian team members, our accessibility specialist Andrea Fercia, has already reviewed the plugin and we’re going to make sure the accessibility is top notch. 

Soon after that, we’ll add some simple integrations between Yoast SEO and Duplicate Post. Such as making sure that the user roles that Yoast SEO adds, SEO Editor and SEO Manager, can duplicate posts.

Currently, we do not have plans to make a premium version of Duplicate Post, nor do we want to take any functionality away from the current plugin. We simply want to make this plugin better and improve everybody’s workflows with it.

We at Yoast, now including Enrico, are really excited about all the current and future opportunities for our plugins that this acquisition brings. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them!

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How to optimize your news site

If your website is all about news, there’s a lot you can do to optimize it for search engines (and your users in the process). In this post, I’ll address some things you need to keep in mind, specifically when optimizing your news website.

First of all, let’s be clear about the meaning of ‘news site’. If you have a construction business with a news section on your website, that isn’t a news website. It will be a lot harder to get into Google News, and your news might not be indexed as quickly as news on a website that focuses solely on news, like the Huffington Post or The Guardian. Google says this about it: “Google News is not a marketing service.” So, you’re probably better off sending your press releases elsewhere :)

WordPress? News SEO!

If you’re using WordPress, you’re in luck! We offer a plugin that takes care of a lot of the things mentioned in this article. The News SEO plugin for WordPress creates XML News Sitemaps, so Google knows about new articles on your site as soon as possible. It also helps you optimize some of the more advanced XML News sitemap options, like stock tickers. Be sure to get that plugin if you’re serious about your news website.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP is important for every website, but with the huge amount of people checking news on their mobile devices, you should definitely make sure it’s done right on your news site. AMP’s goal is to show articles instantly on a mobile device, instead of loading the full-blown desktop site, or all the fancy things we created in our responsive website. AMP strips all the design and fancy stuff, and focuses on delivering the main content ASAP.

AMP WordPress plugin banner

There’s a WordPress plugin by Automattic to create Accelerated Mobile Pages. Be sure to read our posts on AMP and definitely check out this post Joost did about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for WordPress for more information about the subject.

Crawl speed

You want your news indexed and indexed fast by Google. There are several things that can help with this. You obviously optimize site speed, but also make sure that XML sitemaps are available. Note that a news sitemap isn’t like your regular XML sitemap. Google has some guidelines for that:

  • Your news sitemap can only contain news from the last two days (and articles will remain in the news index for 30 days).
  • Update your news sitemap continually with fresh articles as they’re published.
  • The limit for URLs per news sitemap is 1,000 URLs.
  • Don’t create a new sitemap per new article, but rather, update your existing sitemap.
  • Don’t use the Google Sitemap Generator to create a news sitemap. Feel free to use our News SEO plugin for that.

More information about Google News sitemaps here.

Crawl speed will also be improved if you consistently post new articles on your news website. If Googlebot finds new stuff on your website with every crawl, it’ll come to your website more often. This also means you need to have a solid hosting server, so your website is up every time Googlebot visits your site. That very Googlebot might actually cause downtime, in case it visits your site too often and your server is crappy. Read more about fixing this here.

One more thing. If you serve excessive, unneeded content to that Googlebot, it’ll waste valuable crawl budget on less valuable pages. Optimize site structure, be sure to block unwanted pages via robots.txt or robots meta, and obviously, avoid duplicate content at all times.

Site structure of your news site

We’ve done a post on site structure for blogs, that largely applies for news websites as well. On your news website, you’ll have articles on one side, and taxonomies, like categories and tags, on the other. Be aware of that second structure, as it might be more important than your articles that come and go. Optimize these taxonomy pages to your very best effort.

Marieke told you about these steps:

  1. Evaluate your categories
  2. Add sub-categories and tags
  3. Add pagination
  4. And again: Get rid of outdated content

Read more: The site structure of a growing blog »

Update your article as news comes in

You want to publish news as soon as it finds you. Be sure to do so, and update your article during the day to make sure you keep bringing the right, current news. You don’t need to add a new article per update – in fact, please don’t. Google News wants you to keep a permanent link for your news article. What you should do, is update the title of your article, as that will tell Google your article was updated. This allows you to grow for instance a news article about an event during the event itself, so you’ll always have the latest news in the article that is already in Google News by then.

Let’s ask the expert

Martijn Scheijbeler - TNW - news website expertI asked Martijn Schreijbeler, former Director of Marketing at The Next Web, what he considered the most important thing when it comes to running a decent news website. This is what he told me:

What makes SEO different?

“You ever wondered what makes SEO different for publishers than it is to, for example, eCommerce stores? We have the same issues as they have, increasing search traffic, making sure pages don’t have duplicate content. Although our lives are a little bit easier as we don’t have to worry about content marketing with a 15-people strong editorial team.
In our case, we have to worry even more about the speed of our users with new supporting technologies coming up, like Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News which all have their ways to support content on another platform.”

These are interesting times. I totally agree that it’s not just speed or structure that matters. You should always be aware that your audience uses a wide variety of apps, on multiple devices, to read your news. Martijn already mentioned a number of these, but what about Flipboard, smartwatches and Nuzzel. You have decisions to make. Do you want to serve the full article on all these apps and devices, or would you rather have people click to your website? Do you have sufficient social reach to leverage the ever growing number of apps that recommend news, based on your social followers and influencers? You just have to keep up with developments and find out what your target audience wants you to optimize for.

In conclusion

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re running a news website and want to use, for instance, Google News to the fullest. In this article we’ve told you about AMP, crawl speed, updating your titles, site structure and our News SEO plugin.

Technological developments go fast. I am sure that as soon as we all fixed AMP for our websites, something new will come along. We should always keep thinking about our websites and news sites in particular, as (speaking for myself) these are the sites we visit most on mobile devices. In a variety of apps, let me emphasize that again. It pushes us to make our websites adjust to new screen sizes, fit into new apps and make news sites blazing fast.

I hope this article will give something to think about, something to work with. As always, I am eager to learn from your experiences. Drop me a note on Twitter or leave a comment below!

Keep reading: Social Media strategy »

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