Weekly SEO Recap:

Joost's weekly SEO recapIt’s all about Google today, sorry, so let’s be quick about it. Luckily, we’re allowed to forget about Yandex now, sorry, bad pun, I know.

Let’s get on with it:

Is Google’s webmaster communications failing?

We’ve “lost” Matt Cutts as a spoke person to the SEO community about a year ago. Some other Googlers have stepped in and apparently not everybody is as happy with them as they were with Matt, judging by this article. I have to admit that Matt definitely had more “klout” within Google, but I don’t really know whether that was always a good thing. I find it’s easier to reach a Googler now than it was a couple of years ago, and it’s also less limited to a specific group of high level SEO’s.

Google indexing Twitter more

Earlier this year, Google gained access to Twitters “firehose”, the feed with all tweets sent out. It turns out that since that time, Google has started indexing more and more tweets, now indexing 5x as much as before. 96% of tweets still go unindexed, but let’s be fair, most of them probably are a waste of indexation space and time anyway.

Should you ask for links?

Well, of course you should. You should ask because the stuff you write is awesome and very interesting for other people’s readers, right? If you’re asking purely for the SEO value, you might be in trouble. But none of you do that, ever, right? Oh and in case you wondered, yes even that link from that German SEO friend on his German blog is worth while.

Speaking about links, Sophos uncovered a massive case of link spam. Might not change anything for you but it’s interesting to see the scale at which SEO poisoning takes place.

Google testing giant ad / knowledge panel

If you wondered where Google was going to take those knowledge panels, here’s your answer. This is one direction I’ve fully expected to see happen, an integration of ads and content that makes it incredibly hard to figure out what’s paid for and what’s not. This cannot be a good thing if you ask me, but for Google it probably means mo’ money.

That’s it, see you next week!

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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Weekly SEO Recap: Search landscape changes

Joost's weekly SEO recapThis weeks news has some drastic changes to the search landscape that could mean… Well, anything really. There’s also some smaller news about Google which is worth mentioning, so let’s dive in:

Microsoft Bing to power AOL Search

AOL Search, while relatively small, is still a thing. Microsoft just signed a deal to power it for the next 10 years, while giving a big part of their ads business to AOL. What’s more surprising to me is this news that came out on the side: Bing is now sustainable in itself. Microsoft has been pouring money into it for quite a while, as far as “we” knew, but now apparently “It’s a multibillion dollar business, and it does pay for itself”. Good news as that means they’ll keep on competing with Google!

Yahoo! testing Google

Yahoo! is testing Google as a provider for it’s search results, instead of Bing. First noticed by Aaron Wall at SEOBook, this could have quite some impact. SEOs should really watch what happens here mostly because it impacts how much traffic a good ranking in Google will give you. The reasoning is probably simple: Google ads are worth much more than Bing ads, so this would increase Google’s revenue. The fact that Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer is an ex-Googler probably doesn’t hurt in this deal either.

DuckDuckGo expanding

To show that search is alive and vibrant even outside these three historical enemies, DuckDuckGo is expanding their “suggest” feature to 34 new regions. They’re not exactly a big traffic driver yet, but I’m very happy to see other options grow slowly too.

Google becoming smart about Search Console

Google has put out some questions that are interesting as they show what they’re thinking about. This post has details, but this sentence specifically made me happy “To view a combined Search Analytics report that includes different URL versions of your site (http and https).” Yes. Please. www and non-www too and we’re about done if we can also verify them all at once.

The Panda is a “couple of weeks” away, we think

Nothing more fun than guessing when a new update is going to hit. People at Google estimating when it might happen are usually wrong, but the latest is “a couple of weeks“. We’ll see. Just know that it’s coming. Just like Winter.

Google in other languages

If you think about how Google’s algorithm works a lot, you’re bound to think “but how does that work in language X”. Welcome to the world of a polyglot. This post has some interesting insights.

SEO at Pinterest

I’ve been meaning to share this article (which was written in January) for a while, and keep forgetting. It details how Pinterest experiments with SEO. Fun read, might give you some ideas for testing.

 

That’s it, see you next week!

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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Search landscape changes on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Real-time content analysis for better SEO

Yoast SEO IconThe best way to improve someone’s SEO content writing, is to let him do it, and then give real-time feedback. Ever since its first release in 2011, the page analysis functionality in WordPress SEO has always worked when you saved the post. We’re about to change that, and make it real-time. We’ll give you a preview of what that’s like in this post and explain the other benefits.

Online content analysis tool

Because of how it works technically now, we can easily provide our real-time content analysis as a tool online. If you want to see what it looks like, go to our new online content analysis tool. You’ll get live feedback about both SEO aspects of your site as well as stuff like the Flesch reading ease score.

The online content analysis tool is very similar to how it will work in WordPress SEO when we release this, which will probably happen mid-July. Give it a try! We’d love to hear in the comments what you think and what problems you ran into. We’ve already found a few bugs ourselves, that’s exactly why we’re doing this. We want you to try it and tell us what’s broken!

As you can see, we’ve been working on the snippet preview too. No longer will you have an input field for the meta description or the SEO title: you can edit them straight in the snippet preview. This should make it both more intuitive and make it require less screen real-estate. Here’s a quick GIF of it in action:

Snippet Preview in action

Premium SEO benefits

One of the other benefits of this change is that we’ll be able to do something that has often been requested: do content analysis for multiple keywords. This is a feature that’ll be available to WordPress SEO Premium customers soon after the release of the real-time content analysis.

We’re also working on more checks to help you improve your writing, in line with the writing tips we’ve been giving in our Content SEO eBook (which, btw, is on sale this week for just $15!). These will gradually be released as we develop them.

Technical background of the real-time analysis

To be able to do real-time content analysis, the entire functionality has been rewritten in JavaScript (mostly by our awesome new developer Danny Terwindt. There’s actually a GitHub repository for this specific bit of code. The developers among you will wonder why it’s a separate repository. Simple: this rewrite allows us to expand to more platforms.

We’d love your input!

As I said above: this is a relatively early “release” of this code. We’d love for you to use it and tell us what problems you run into in the comments!

This post first appeared as Real-time content analysis for better SEO on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Weekly SEO Recap: Google tests & oDesk becomes Upwork

Joost's weekly SEO recapComing to you from warm & very sunny Seville, where I’m currently attending WordCamp Europe along with some colleagues, this is another weeks SEO recap! There was some nice news about Google tests that came out this week that I’d love to share with you. Also, a case study on a project I was actually involved in myself.

Google tests. A lot.

Last week, while writing the SEO recap, I tweeted a screenshot showing that I was part of a Google experiment: Google was changing the red line in search results to blue. It was picked up by Barry Schwartz and turned into a headline on his blog and later on SearchEngineLand. Google also is testing a slightly different green for URLs… Another one: Google removed emoji’s from the search result pages this week too. And a final one: Google testing a new mobile interface. I think these articles show two things: we as an SEO community pay a ton of attention to even the tiniest details and Google test a LOT.

oDesk becomes Upwork

oDesk recently rebranded to Upwork, moving their domain from odesk.com to upwork.com. I myself was part of a team of SEOs working on this migration, which I think we can say is a success. Andrew Shotland wrote about it on SearchEngineLand, and Lisa Oda, the head of content marketing at Upwork, wrote about it too.

Having now done several of these migrations I can honestly say they’re not for the faint of heart, but it’s slowly getting easier to get them right. Don’t change your domain name on a whim though, Andrew’s post linked above actually has some very good pointers.

That’s it! Nothing “pressing” left, although I do expect updates to happen soon, maybe next week!

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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Google tests & oDesk becomes Upwork on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

How to incorporate cornerstone content

A pyramid showing where a cornerstone article should be in your site structureTwo weeks ago, I wrote a post focussing on the question of the type of content of cornerstone articles. I concluded with the notion that  cornerstone content should be informative, fun to read and extremely well written. Cornerstone articles should reflect your business or the mission of your business.

Once you have written such awesome content, you would like search engines to notice these pages. You should thus make sure your internal linking structure shows Google that your cornerstone page is most important. But how do you do that? How do you make sure your cornerstone pages actually rank?

Incorporating cornerstone content in your website

In this post, I will focus on the question how to incorporate your cornerstone pages in your site structure. I will first describe the most ideal position of your cornerstone content in the structure of your website.  I truly understand that for most of you, this will mean a drastic change in the structure of your current website. That’s why I will also give some tips (quick wins) to optimize your site structure quickly.

High in your pyramid!

Cornerstone articles should appear very high in your site’s pyramid. Ideally, one would be able to instantly click from your homepage to your cornerstone contentpage. Ideally you would write an awesome cornerstone article and link all your other pages about similar topics to that article. You should make sure that every one of those articles contains beautifully written prose nicely focussing on different aspects of the same keyword you are aiming to rank for with your cornerstone article. Subsequently, you will write a million new blogposts focussing on new angles of the topic of your cornerstone article. From every single one of these million blogposts, you link to your original cornerstone article. Such an internal linking structure will help your cornerstone content article to rank in Google.

If you sell ballet shoes and your cornerstone content article is about the importance of well-fitted ballet shoes, you could write blogposts about ballet injuries, different brands of ballet shoes and how to determine the correct size of ballet shoes. Make sure to link from every single one of these blogposts to your original cornerstone article.

Quick wins!

In real life, perhaps you do not have the time to develop such an elaborate structure. Still, writing an article about a specific topic often leads to inspiration to write an article about a similar topic. You should then try to optimize this second post for a slightly different focus keyword and link these posts internally.

Every time you write a post, you should think about similar posts you have written and link to these. Do you already have an important article about this, even though it is not entirely awesome yet? Make sure you set up the right linking structure. This does not take a lot of your time and could really help to rank your most important article. Take a look at all the posts about the topic you have already written and add links to your most important article from all of your (less awesome) posts about that specific topic.

Structure shows importance!

Your cornerstone content pages should be overarching great articles about topics that are really important for your company. Other pages or blogposts should focus on different aspects of the same topic and should all link to the cornerstone content page. This structure will show the search engines which article is the most important on your website. This will eventually lead to the ranking of your cornerstone article in the search engines.

Want to know more?

Would you like to read more about content writing and site structure, you should definitely read our eBook about Content SEO. In this eBook, we explain step by step how to set up a nice site structure and how to write awesome content. If you want more tailor made advice, our review team is more than willing to make an in-depth analysis of your website!

 

This post first appeared as How to incorporate cornerstone content on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Weekly SEO Recap: Google & HTTPS, Bing no longer nice

Joost's weekly SEO recapAn interesting week this one, including an update that seems to have quite a bit of impact. There are also some nice new features in Google Trends, possible labels for slow loading sites and some more annoying news about Bing and keywords.

A Google update

It wasn’t Panda, it wasn’t Penguin, though both are still “to come”, but this week we had an update that gave several people in the SEO industry a shudder. Mozcast, which measures changes in the search results for a fixed set of keywords and calculates a “temperature” based on that, had one of its “warmest” days ever.

Dr Pete over at Moz wrote a post, thinking this change could be related to the HTTPS changes Google did earlier. This was quickly refuted by Googler Gary Illyes on Twitter. And of course, most SEO bloggers stopped thinking at that point and just wrote down that it wasn’t HTTPS related. I disagree with that. I think Googlers don’t necessarily always know anymore what causes something to happen.

Google’s algorithms are, in part, self-learning. They automatically determine factors that cause a site to be trusted. This week, Wikipedia started moving to HTTPS entirely. If more and more sites that Google trusts, like Wikipedia, the FBI and now also Reddit, all are on HTTPS, that factor might automatically become more important, simply because of that machine learning. So while Googlers might say they haven’t changed the algorithm, the algorithm might have changed itself. Note that Gary’s tweet said “AFAIK”. They do that more and more when talking about the algorithm. Simply because they don’t always know.

Of course, this is just a theory, and it would not explain all of the changes, but nothing ever does. My own thoughts on HTTPS haven’t changed much since January last year.

More Google news

Google did more this week. Google Trends got a nice update, including both real time data and data for YouTube. You should definitely just have a play with that for a bit. This Wired piece on it is good. Another interesting bit was that Google UK confirmed that more than half of their searches and YouTube views now happen on mobile. Have I reminded you to get your site ready for mobile enough now?

There was some fuzz the last few weeks about a Google backed company getting a penalty and then being reinstated in the search results within a week. Apparently John Mueller of Google said that everyone could get back this quickly. All you have to do is do a “fantastic job of cleaning these things up” and send in a “great” reconsideration request. I’ve spoken to a few SEO’s who do cleanups for sites that got penalized the same way this company did. No one had ever seen it happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Google is once again testing a “Slow to load” label in the search results. It’s hard to reproduce tests like that, probably in part because where I spend most of my time online, at work and at home, I have either 4G Internet or a 200 mbit fiber connection. Doesn’t really make sense for Google to show that label on those connections.

Another update from Gary Illyes making me kinda scared was this one. He said this:

Please be mindful with noindex directives and remember that most search engines will honour it, even if it’s in the BODY element.

Which brings back all sorts of bad thoughts in me, wanting to leave meta robots noindex elements in comments on posts. It’s a good reminder nonetheless. Another tweet from Gary pointed to new breadcrumbs documentation, unfortunately it doesn’t answer some of the questions I had from the old documentation so I’ve send another email to Google.

Bing stops being nice

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bing, in part because they employ Duane Forrester, who is a great guy doing Webmaster outreach there. I have to admit they’ve made me lose some of those warm feelings this week when they announced they were no longer going to pass on search queries (part of them also moving to HTTPS completely). In their words:

to further protect our users’ privacy, we will not include the used query terms.

I think that’s nonsense, because just like Google, they will give them to advertisers. I wrote a scathing piece about that on SEObook when Google announced that in 2011. This is no different. Of course Bing doesn’t really send most sites that much traffic anyway, so most of you won’t (and/or shouldn’t) care.

That’s it for this week!

We still have an action on our site reviews, for a little while longer you can get $100 off. See you next week!

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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Google & HTTPS, Bing no longer nice on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Weekly SEO Recap: Apple & Mobilegeddon

Joost's weekly SEO recapNews comes in weird bumps sometimes. While last week was filled to the brim with search news, this week it’s incredibly slow. There was a lot of news out of Apple though, and some of it touches on search and online enough that it warrants discussing it here.

Apple news

Ad blocking

In iOS9, Apple will let you block ads. Yes you read that right. You can block ads on your mobile phone. From a user experience point of view that’s a very smart move. Google and other ad providers have their mouth full about caring about the user experience. Their ads though are often the thing slowing down the page load the most. It’s also worrisome because so many news outlets and other publishers rely on ads for their business model.

Apple Search – Spotlight

This article on Medium talks about how Apple is slowly adding more and more features to Spotlight. Spotlight is its search functionality baked into iOS and Mac OS. If you read that you might think “but it’s not web search”. To that I say: well… Not yet. If you read this, you’ll realize it might become a search engine. If it does, Google would finally get the formidable competitor I think it needs for the market to become healthy again.

SEO News

The biggest true SEO news is a Google test, and one that’s not going to have much impact by my estimation at that. I did want to do a small dive into something that has happened in the last months and see if we know a bit more now: Mobilegeddon.

Who truly got hit by Mobilegeddon?

In one of the earliest posts about the impact of Mobilegeddon, Reddit got pointed to as one of the biggest losers. When I check their mobile visibility now, I can see they’ve completely recovered.

NBC Sports is a better example. Their mobile visibility took a dive and hasn’t recovered (note that the left axis doesn’t go to 0 so it’s not quite as dramatic as it looks):

NBC Sports Desktop and Mobile Search Visibility

NBC Sports does just about everything wrong. Let’s say you’re a normal user and want to go to their site on your mobile phone. First, you get an interstitial for their mobile app. You’re on the go so you click that away, you don’t want to install an app while you’re traveling. You just want your sports news! Then… They give you the normal site. Saying it’s not optimized for mobile is an understatement:

nbc sports mobile screenshot

Another site that got hit quite hard is FT.com. It didn’t recover either:

Mobile search visibility FT.com

The following screenshot was taken with my iPhone 6:

FT.com mobile screenshot

It’s horrible. The peculiar thing is: it does have a mobile site. It even gives you a popup for it:

app.ft.com popup

This leaves me with so many questions… First of all: why? Why not just redirect me if you see I’m on a mobile device? Why not tell Google that you have a mobile friendly version too (using rel=alternate)? And lastly: why a separate mobile site? Why not go fully responsive?

Responsive designs are the future for many reasons. It might seem like more work, in the long run, it’s much less work. Maintaining a separate mobile site is going to be much more costly. FT needs a good SEO and it could do much better with just a few relatively simple fixes. If you’re working on your site though, you’d be much better off just making your site responsive and not having to make changes like that, ever.

It’s clear: the time you could get away with nonsense like this is over. So get your site ready for mobile. If you need pointers, consider one of our site reviews, we’ve got a nice discount at the moment on them too! See you next week!

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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO Recap: Apple & Mobilegeddon on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

WordPress SEO 2.2

Both WordPress SEO Premium and the free version of WordPress SEO have been updated to version 2.2. This new release brings quite a few changes and some nice new additions. We’ll explain the changes in this post.

Security fixes

This release contains a fix for a potential XSS issue in the admin, specifically the snippet preview. It was caused by issues in our JS, which is why also did another overhaul of our admin JS. The XSS issue required you to be logged in, so the risk level was relatively low.

Community input

This release contains code that was suggested by 5 people outside of the core WordPress SEO development team. We particularly want to highlight and thank Gary Jones as he’s done several great suggestions for this release. We’ve also had great feedback from Gary and several others on how to improve the accessibility of the plugin, all of those changes are incorporated in this release.

No more tracking class

We’ve removed our external tracking. We were doing opt-in tracking of a couple hundred thousand sites, but as WordPress.org is improving how it does its stats, we’d rather focus on other things. This means we’ll no longer give you a popup asking for permission on new installs.

Recognize your redirects

Recently, while Joost was helping on a major domain migration, he couldn’t locate which bit of code was creating a particular redirect. Annoying as this was, he decided it was time to invent a new HTTP header, to be sent right before a redirect header. This header, X-Redirect-By, identifies the piece of software that created the redirect. We’ve implemented it in WordPress SEO immediately and hope it’ll save a few of our users a headache at some time.

Premium: better redirect notices

As Joost wrote about last week, we improved the notices that urge you to redirect changed / deleted posts and terms if you’re using WordPress SEO Premium. These should help you to keep your site optimized. If you’re not using WordPress SEO Premium yet, you really should consider it. Not only will you get more features and support from our team, you’ll also help fund the further development of the entire plugin.

Integration with other plugins

We love it when plugins integrate nicely with our SEO plugin. Nested Pages is one of those. It’s an intuitive drag and drop interface for pages in the admin. It’s so nice, we dare say it’s what the WordPress interface should look like. When you run WordPress SEO, it highlights the SEO score (through our simple color coded circles) right on the overview:

Nested pages example

Joost recently submitted a patch for Nested Pages so it will show blue for noindexed pages, a patch that was promptly accepted. We love open source!

We’ve done some work in this release to make sure that we in turn integrate well with Nested Pages. This means that when you delete a page, the notice you get to redirect the URL will work, which it didn’t before because you weren’t on the normal edit pages screen.

Other bugfixes & changes

A couple of the changes we’ve done:

Redirect to about
Quite a few people complained about the redirect to our about page after an update. We’ve heard you and changed how it works. You’ll now get a dismissible notice with a link to the release notes, we’ll no longer redirect you.

Fixed multisite settings import
You should now be able to properly import settings on multisite environments.

Facebook Insights authentication
Next to moving this to the bottom of the Facebook tab (it’s not that important), we’ve changed how you can authenticate to get access to Facebook insights. This knowledge base article is probably the best explanation. If you were already authenticated you don’t need to change anything.

Under the hood
Also in this release, we’ve cleaned up all our JavaScript and, more important: documented all of it and made sure it no longer gives JS Hint warnings. We did more cleanup like this, in our continuous effort to both write better code and improve how we do so.

News SEO

Our News SEO plugin has had a small update too, fixing some sitemap caching issues people were having. If you don’t know our other premium SEO plugins, check them out.

This post first appeared as WordPress SEO 2.2 on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Weekly SEO recap: Panda, Penguin, Mobilegeddon

We’ve decided that we’re going to turn my “somewhat” regular recent posts on changes in the Search and SEO world into a weekly SEO recap. It’ll run on Friday most of the time, so you know when to expect it. This week was absolutely packed with search news, so let’s dive right in.

The Headlines

News from SMX Advanced

This week was the week of SMX Advanced, one of the bigger conferences in the SEO world and usually a place where Google announces some changes. The most important ones:

  • Google is planning a Panda refresh, due in the next 2 to 4 weeks. This could be huge, it could also be small. We’ll have to wait and see.
  • Google is working towards “a continuously running Penguin update“, they didn’t give any timeline for it but they’re planning to make Penguin work all the time, which, in essence, means bad links won’t help you anymore, not even for a shorter period of time. Seems like good news for most people, although some more info on timing would be nice.
  • In a panel about Mobilegeddon, a Google rep said “many webmasters are still making mistakes that are preventing Google from recognizing their content as mobile friendly” (source). Of course we wrote about this months ago, as well as a month before the update, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers. MarketingLand had another post about Mobilegeddon’s hits and misses. There were mentions of low page speed and the use of app interstitials as negative signals, both are “as expected”: they don’t offer the best user experience.

But that wasn’t even everything.

Local SEO: log in to Google My Business regularly

In a thread on the Google and Your Business forum, Google confirmed that you have to log in to Google My Business regularly to make sure your listing stays active. In this case, “regularly” seems to mean at least every 6 months. Would be a waste if you use our Local SEO plugin to optimize your site and then loose your maps listing due to simply not logging in, so I’d set a calendar reminder for that.

Yahoo! Maps closing down

Yahoo! has announced that they’re killing Yahoo! maps, among other things. While it makes me slightly sad, I did a quick search on the WordPress plugin repository, only to find that there are no actively maintained plugins using the service. Seems Google maps had already killed Yahoo! maps, Yahoo! just had to figure it out for themselves too.

The Analysis

While I didn’t attend SMX Advanced myself, I’ve now read through most of the coverage. There’s basically three things I look at when reading coverage like that:

  1. Is something we tell our clients to do refuted / changed?
  2. Is there something new we should tell our clients to do?
  3. Did Google, Facebook or someone else announce new features we could use in our plugins?

The answer, to all three, was no, with a small exception for the Local bit above. As I’ve said for years, written down in my post on Holistic SEO and have stressed at YoastCon too: you can no longer think of SEO as a collection of tips and tricks. In order to become #1 in the search results, you “simply” have to be the best result.

If you’d like help getting there, we’d love to review your site and tell you how to improve it.

That’s it! See you all next week!
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This post first appeared as Weekly SEO recap: Panda, Penguin, Mobilegeddon on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Five things you are doing wrong

time for reviewThe more reviews we do, the more we feel there is a serious problem with the website owners’ perception of their websites and the content on these website.

In this post, we will give our recommendations for the top five issues most websites have and probably do not know they have.

Call-to-action on your homepage

I’m not referring to the call-to-action on your product page. Neither am I referring to the call-to-action on your contact page. The one call-to-action that goes wrong on 90% of all the sites we review, is the call-to-action on the homepage. And most of the times, this isn’t due to a wrong design of a button, to be honest. If a website owner has been reading just a tad bit about call-to-actions, there is a huge button present on the homepage. This will make clear exactly what the owner wants the visitor to do. But there is more to a proper call-to-action:

  1. A call-to-action should stand out. Not just by being huge, but also by using for instance a color that isn’t used in the theme. If your website has mainly blue elements, make sure the call-to-action is for instance green or red. Not blue, even though that might ‘looks so nice in the design’. Forgive me for saying this, but screw the theme design when it comes to call-to-actions. Make them stand out.
    Next to that, make sure the call-to-action has a great text. Refrain from button texts like “Send”, “Submit”, “Read more”. Use texts like “Get your free sample »” or “More on [this subject] »”.
  2. Make sure it’s the right one. What? Yes, in a lot of cases we find that the main purpose of the website is to get people to call for more information, yet the call-to-action goes to a contact form on a hidden contact page that will merely send an email instead of allowing for immediate one-on-one communication.
    One of the last sites I checked myself had that very problem. There were two (?) phone numbers listed rather small in the header. The introductory content had a huge button to a contact form. Explain what phone number to use when – or rather use just one main number – and make that the main call-to-action. In conclusion: think about the main purpose of your website and make sure the call-to-action on your homepage is related.

There is a lot more to a call-to-action. If you want to read more about that call-to-action on other pages than the homepage, please read my post on Calling to the Next Action.

What the visitor is looking for

Sometimes you are telling your visitors what you think is valuable for them, where they are actually looking for something else. Compare what you feel your users are looking for to what they are actually looking for.

We dealt with this issue ourselves on this website. In the initial page for the site reviews, we told the potential client everything we felt they wanted us to check. We told them what we would analyze, instead of what they would learn as a result of that. Currently, our Gold Review page is set up just for the visitor and tells you less about the technical details of the checks we will be performing. Most customers don’t really care. They want to be able to present the web developer and copywriter with a clear to-do list. The end goal is to optimize the entire website for better user experience, better SEO and better conversion, of course. That’s a different story than telling people about schema.org and mobile menus, which might be a bit too much details for a sales page.

The same happened with the page about our Local SEO plugin. Focus is on what it does for the visitor and for the website as such. The technical details, that only are of interest for a smaller number of customers, are moved all the way down. For us developers, these technical details are the things we have been focusing on the entire development time, so it seems obvious to start with these on the page about the plugin.

Note that that doesn’t mean we don’t provide details. Usually people email us for more details, at which point we tell them “our reviews cover all areas of a website. These are just a few things, the list is much larger, but this will give you a good impression:

  • User experience: design, call-to-actions, 404s, your menu
  • Content: insights on keywords, structure, internal search, taxonomies
  • Social Media: use and implementation on websites
  • Template code: schema.org, responsiveness, template files
  • General seo: site titles, meta tags, internal links
  • Site speed: caching, compression, image optimization
  • And more!”

Textexpander is our best friend in this.

Using banners

We review quite a lot of websites that sell a product or service, but also leverage their website to push a number of banners. Not like we do, for their own products, but using services like Google Adwords or other affiliate programs. There are a number of things that you want to make sure of:

  1. Focus should be on your content at all times. If your web page has three banners and an equal number of text lines, Google Panda could be your worst enemy. Stop being bamboo. Make sure the amount of text on a page makes sure that main text is the absolute main element of that page.
  2. Banners and affiliate links are of use. If your website is about recipes, and your banners are about mortgages, chances are your audience will either ignore the banner or even find it annoying. If the banner is about kitchen tools and equipment, your visitor might find that appealing, and might actually thank you for bringing the product to their attention by clicking the banner and perhaps eventually buying the product.
  3. Affiliate links should be cloaked. Following the previous section, I’ll try to use layman language: hide the fact that you are using affiliate links. We did an article on that: How to cloak your affiliate links. Both redirect these links and use robots.txt to disallow these redirects for Google. Only the combination works. Oftentimes, we see the redirect, but the robots.txt part is left out. Do both.

One small remark on call-to-action here. Most banner designers understand the power of a great call-to-action. For that reason, most banners contain a call-to-action as well. If you are serving banners on your website, make sure these don’t interfere with your own call-to-action. Just saying.

Mobilegeddon

Really, I don’t care if you like the name or not. Fact is that mobile traffic is rapidly taking over desktop traffic, and that mobilegeddon is an actual thing you should pay attention to. There is a simple reason why Google likes responsive websites: more and more Google searches are on mobile devices. It’s as simple as that.

What does that mean for your mobile website? Quite a lot, actually. A mobile website should list the main tasks first. In the reviews, a very common recommendation is to list the phone number in the first view of the website. And make it clickable. Nothing more annoying than a phone number on a mobile website that can’t be clicked. It’s a simple adjustment, really.

Besides that, mobile menus and links should be usable. It the menu is crammed with links to your pages, it’s not user friendly. Really focus on the main pages, even if that for instance means disabling the submenu. What we have also seen a number of times, is that the page is optimized for a mobile phone, and the mobile design is also used for the tablet version of the website. In most cases, that means poor user experience. The desktop site would be more appropriate on a tablet.

These are just a few things. I did a post a while back that can help you identify flaws in your mobile design. Read that one and visit your own website on a mobile phone.

One last remark. If your website is responsive, that doesn’t per se mean all images are. If your stylesheet (CSS) has a section for the mobile website, be sure to add something like img {max-width:100%;} (ask your developer), just to make sure all images fit the screen.

Links to your website

Our Gold and Silver reviews mainly focus on the website as is. Most of the recommendations can be addressed by a copywriter or a web developer. We can simply tell you what to do and if performed right, it will help your website. There is one thing in these reviews that we can not control and have little influence on: backlinks.

Using tools like Majesticseo.com and Searchmetrics.com, we are able to check how many backlinks your website has, how important the websites linking your website are and if you have over-optimized the anchor texts.
The number of backlinks tells us and Google something about the authority your website has. If lots of sites link your website, you must have something interesting to say, right? The website linking yourself preferably also holds that authority. Majesticseo sheds some light on this by comparing trust flow and citation flow. For more background on that I’d like to refer to my article Cleaning up bad backlinks.
lastly, the anchor text of the links to your website needs to be right. Normally, the most used anchor for a website is the URL or the brand / site name. If the most used anchor is a product name, or something else completely, that will set of alarms for over-optimization.

For more background on link building, please read Paddy Moogan’s The Link Building Book.

Our site reviews

All of the five sections above highlight things you most probably have heard of. Things you probably have been dealing with for your own website. And our website reviews show that these things are done wrong in a lot of cases.

It’s really the tip of the iceberg. These are five things we wanted to share with you upfront. And we’d be more than happy to tell you even more in one of our site reviews, of course. Let me give you a very brief summary of the review variations we have:

  • The Silver review is for non-WordPress websites and contains an analysis of your website from from to back, dealing with things from user experience and design to speed and template code. More on that review here.
  • The Gold review deals with the same subjects, but has the added benefit that we know our way around .WordPress. We will advise on plugins and where possible, will tell you how to solve things in WordPress. Besides that, the Gold review comes with a 1-year license for WordPress SEO Premium and our eBooks.
  • The Platinum review contains the Gold review, but has an additional report on the specific issues we found on your website and digs a lot more into the history of the website. We will go over Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) much more and trends in Searchmetrics.com are checked by default.
  • The Diamond review is for those that want to go all out. It’s the Platinum review, containing the Gold review, but has a separate Conversion review included as well. Especially for webshops, this is a really valuable way to make sure you have all bases covered.

It’s up to you!

Stop wasting time optimizing your website by trial and error. If none of the five things mentioned in the article above make you scratch your head, optimize on writing great content. If any of these do make you doubt yourself, please don’t waste precious time and order one of our reviews as soon as possible!

All reviews and all checks are done manually. This only allows for a number of reviews per week, so be sure to order your review in time!

This post first appeared as Five things you are doing wrong on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!