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How to scale content production to capture the long-tail opportunity

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to scale content production to capture the long-tail opportunity

Here’s something we all know so well that nobody needs to say it anymore: content is king.

We know it because we’ve been hit over the head with the phrase more times than you can shake a page view at. There’s no getting away from it: producing high-quality, engaging content and unique copy is vital for SEO, brand awareness, and affinity.

There will be few digital marketers out there who are not painfully aware of the challenge. When resources, time, and money are (more likely than not) limiting factors, how do you produce large amounts of content to a high enough standard to be effective?

This can be especially true if you or your client is a business with many different product lines, or in multiple locations around the world. The potential topics are infinite, red tape acts as a bottleneck, and copywriters can be overworked and expensive.

The good news is that with the rising popularity of remote working and digital nomads, partnered with a solid strategy and process, you don’t have to make the impossible choice of quality or quantity.

Use a network of freelancers

Perhaps you have a short-term project in the pipeline, or your client suddenly wants to dramatically increase the amount of content in production. What do you do? Hiring a team of copywriters is expensive.

The freelance market, however, is competitive, and these days you don’t have to compromise quality for the sake of cost. Digital nomads are highly-skilled, maybe even multi-lingual, and are likely to be based in countries where the cost of living is low.

Of course, this might not work for you if you need writers based in your market, in which case you could use your international freelancers for other means. Have you got a killer strategist on your books, or someone who speaks four languages who could translate and localize your copy using their knowledge of your markets? Make use of their skills.

It goes without saying that good communication is central to making it work with freelancers. Make yourself as available as possible to your writers and remind them again and again that there is no such thing as a silly question. Building a personal rapport is vital—video calls are great for this, and often far quicker than trying to painfully explain something over email. Apps such as Google Hangouts will become your best friend, for when a simple question requires a quick answer.

With freelancers you have the opportunity to not only become more cost-effective, but to make time zones work for you. This is the key: whilst you’re sleeping, some of your freelancers will be working. Manage this effectively and the amount you produce will rapidly increase, without compromising on quality.

Establish a process

It sounds absurdly simple, but if you don’t set up a clear, defined process, then you’re at very real risk of not achieving the core goals of the project. Common pitfalls include repeating work (or producing the wrong content due to poor briefs), missing deadlines, and inefficiently handling budgets.

It may take some time to set up, but it will undoubtedly pay off once it’s up, running, and ticking along by itself whilst you dedicate yourself to other tasks.

Firstly, one of the most useful things you can do is to spend some time getting your briefs watertight. Provide key details about the client, background information for the task such as the target audience, and clearly explain how this work fits into the wider strategy. Outline the deliverables clearly, and provide a step-by-step guide and examples if necessary.

Brief templates can help with this, especially if you’re producing different types of hygiene content for the same client. It will be worth it when you receive the work back exactly as needed, with minimal questions in the process, and future you will thank you.

Secondly, I strongly advise setting up trackers, because let’s face it: the benefit of a good Excel document cannot be underestimated. Create them so you know what stage your project is at from a glance and include pricing information and details of your freelancers. These trackers should essentially be a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about the project. This will be invaluable not only for measuring where you are in the process but also for reporting.

Project tracking and management services such as Trello can be a godsend. Make use of them. Here at Croud we have our own proprietary technology, Croud Control, which allows us to manage huge content projects flexibly, with full visibility and control over every aspect of each project.

If this all sounds a little exhausting, why not use a trusted freelancer to manage this process for you? That way you only need to brief one person (although admittedly you will probably need to do a deep-dive), and providing you have regular check-ins along the way, you will only need to get involved at the final stage.

QA, QA, and QA again

Speaking of the final stage: check everything. Then check again.

It is unavoidable that your copywriters will make mistakes, as they are human beings. It’s also possible that your proofreaders will miss the odd spelling mistake here or there. This is the reason why I operate on a two-stage QA process at a minimum.

If your client is a multinational company, you may be required to translate or localize your copy into several different languages. It goes without saying that native speakers should perform the QA on this type of work, especially if the copywriter was a non-native speaker.

Providing your freelancers with feedback is crucial to the success of content projects, aside from just being a decent thing to do. After all, everyone wants to do a good job and more likely than not, wants to know how they could do it better.

Tight budgets mean you might have to get creative with how you manage it. This QA process allows me to do just that. If a new, potentially unexperienced copywriter with good writing skills and low hourly rate does the bulk of the work, the more skilled writers who are almost definitely more expensive can be lined up to proofread, check tone, and generally make sure it is up to scratch, in half the time it took to write it. Just make sure they don’t end up re-writing the work. Empower them to provide constructive feedback directly to your copywriters, and effectively train them up.

If your QAs pick up on the same mistakes being made repeatedly, allow your copywriters the opportunity to review their edits. If they can actually see the corrections being made, they are more likely to bear them in mind when they write for you again. If fewer edits are required, then congratulations, you have made the process even more efficient and cost-effective.

Summary

Creating high-quality, unique copy and content on a large scale is never going to be easy, but it doesn’t have to be painful. With a bit of legwork at the beginning to establish a well built process, and by making the most of a network of freelancers, it has the potential to be a breeze.

Not only that, but you and your clients will undoubtedly reap the commercial rewards of your hard work. Using exactly this process, together with our global network of 1,700+ freelancers known as ‘Croudies’, we were able to produce city-specific landing page copy for a client with hundreds of locations. This work led to a 113% increase in organic traffic, coupled with a 124% uplift in domain visibility.

And the key to success? Engage your writers at every available opportunity, so they don’t feel like a cog in a machine. Provide them with valuable feedback and help them whenever you can. This will likely not only improve your enjoyment of the project, but you’ll also probably find that they are more willing to help with future work. And when the whole project goes off without a hitch and you receive fantastic reviews (because why wouldn’t you), tell them of the good news and allow them to share in your success.

How I Boosted My Rankings Without Creating Content or Building Links

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How I Boosted My Rankings Without Creating Content or Building Links

How I Boosted My Rankings Without Creating Content or Building Links

I know what you are thinking, this isn’t impossible.

Because the more content you have and the more links you have, the higher your rankings will be.

Although that is true, it doesn’t mean that content marketing and link building are the only ways to increase your rankings.

It doesn’t matter what update Google rolls out, I’ve found that there are a few hacks that consistently work to boost your rankings without creating more content or building more links.

So, are you ready to find out what they are?

What does Google want to rank at the top?

Before I get into the exact “hacks” and tactics that can boost your rankings, I want to first help you change the way you think about SEO.

Do you think Google really cares about on-page SEO and link building?

Sure, it matters to some extent, but that’s not what Google cares about the most.

Google wants to rank websites that people love. If they ranked websites that you hated, then you would slowly stop using Google.

And if people stopped using Google, then there would be fewer people to click on their ads, which means they would make less money.

That’s why Google cares about what you think and they ideally want to rank the websites that you love.

Now let’s dive into some hacks that will make people love your site, which will boost your rankings.

And don’t worry… I am not going to give you some fluffy tactics, I have data to back up everything. 😉

Hack #1: Optimize your click-through-rate

Let me ask you this:

If 10,000 people performed a Google search for the term “SEO” and clicked on the number 2 listing instead of the number 1 listing, what would that tell Google?

It would tell them that the number 2 listing is more relevant and that Google should move that listing to the number 1 spot.

Rand Fishkin ran an experiment where he told all of his Twitter followers to perform a Google search for the term “best grilled steak” and to click on the first listing, hit the back button, and then click on the 4th listing.

Within 70 minutes the 4th listing jumped into the top spot.

And that page even started to rank at the top of page 1 for the term “grilled steak”.

The ranking eventually slipped back down because people didn’t really feel that the listing was that great compared to some of the other listings.

Instead, it only climbed because Rand has a loyal following and everyone helped trick Google to believe that it was more relevant (at least in the short term).

But this should give you a sense that Google cares what you think. So much so that they will adjust rankings in real time because they don’t want to show you pages that you feel are irrelevant (no matter how many backlinks the page has or how well its on-page code is optimized).

And Rand wasn’t the only person who tested out this theory. It’s been done a countless number of times and each time it produced similar results.

You want people to click on your listing more than the other ones out there. It’s that simple.

If you can generate more clicks (in a legitimate way) than the listings above you, eventually you’ll notice your rankings climb without having to write more content or build more links.

So, how do you get more clicks?

Well, you have to adjust your title tag and meta description tag to be more appealing.

Anytime you perform a Google search, you see a list of results. And each result has a title, URL, and description:

The link part is the title (also known as the title tag), then there is the URL (which is green in color), and lastly, there is the description (black text… that is also known as the meta description).

If you are running a WordPress blog, you can easily modify your title tag and meta description using the Yoast SEO plugin.

There are a few ways you can generate more clicks on your listing over the competition:

Include keywords – people tend to click on listings that include the keyword or phrase they just searched for. Make sure you are using the right keywords within your title and description (I will get to this in a bit). This may sound basic, but when your web pages rank for thousands of terms, which one do you include in your 60-character title tag?
Evoke curiosity – titles that are super appealing tend to generate clicks. For example, if the keyword you were going after is “green tea,” a good title would be “11 Proven Benefits of Green Tea (#6 Will Shock You)”. I know it may seem a bit long, but it works because a lot of people will wonder what number 6 will be.
Copy magazines – anytime you see a magazine, you’ll notice that they have appealing titles and headlines on the cover. A lot of their titles contain “how to” or are list oriented. Look at magazines for inspiration.

Improving your search listings isn’t rocket science. Where most people mess up is that they pick the wrong keywords or they are terrible at writing copy. Remember, humans are reading your title tag and meta description tag, so they need to be appealing.

If you are struggling writing appealing copy, read my ultimate guide to copywriting.

Now let’s go over the exact steps you need to take to get more clicks.

The first step is to use Google Search Console.

Log into Google Search Console, then click on “Search Traffic” and then click on “Search Analytics”:

You’ll see a page that looks something like this:

Scroll back up to the top and click on the “pages” radio button and “CTR” checkbox:

You’ll see a list of results sorted by your most popular URLs and their respective click-through-rate (also known as CTR):

Look for pages that have high traffic but a CTR of less than 5%.

Click on one of the listings with a CTR of less than 5% and then click on the “queries” radio button:

You’ll then want to look for the keywords with the highest amount of “clicks” and the lowest CTR.

Those are the keywords you want to focus on in your title tag and meta description.

Remember, your title tag is limited to roughly 60 characters, which means you won’t be able to fit more than 2 or 3 keywords.

So, you want to pick the keywords that typically have the most clicks. They should also have a low CTR because you selected pages with a CTR rate lower than 5%.

By adjusting your title tag and meta description to include the right keywords and by evoking curiosity, you’ll be able to increase your clicks. This will get you more search traffic in the short run and boost your rankings over time.

Here are 3 tests that worked well for me when I adjusted my title tag:

I noticed I was getting a lot of traffic for the term “marketing digital” from countries outside of North America on one of my posts.

So, I adjusted my title tag from saying “digital marketing” to “marketing digital” which took my CTR from 3.36% to 4.45%. It also increased my search traffic by 1,289 visitors a month.

With the key phrase “social media marketing,” I adjusted my title tag based on an idea I got from a magazine. My CTR went from 2.38% to 2.84%. In total, that increased my traffic by 932 visitors a month.

With my social media marketing title tag, I added the phrase “step-by-step guide.”

This lets people know it is a how-to related post and it is action oriented. I also added the word “social media” a few times within the meta description.

And with the query “Google AdWords,” I noticed that Google announced that they are switching their ad platform name from Google AdWords to Google Ads, so I did the opposite and focused more on the term “Google AdWords” because very few people knew about the name switch.

This helped drive an extra 1,355 visitors per month.

I’ve also had instances where the changes I’ve made had hurt my Google traffic.

So, whenever you adjust your title tag and meta description, mark that date down and look at the data within Google Search Console after 30 or so days to see if it hurt or helped.

If it hurt, revert it back and wait another 30 days. It can hurt your rankings if you continuously test. So when you have a losing variation, no matter what, wait 30 days as it will stabilize your rankings.

If the change helped boost your CTR and rankings, then you are off to a good start.

Now that you’ve optimized your click-through-rate, it’s time for you to optimize your user experience.

Hack #2: Show people what they want when they want it

If you go back to the experiment Rand Fishkin ran above, you’ll notice he told people to click the “back” button.

You don’t want people going to your site and clicking the back button… it will hurt your rankings.

People tend to click the back button because they don’t like what they see. If you can optimize your website for the optimal user experience, people will be less likely to click the back button.

I do this through 2 simple steps.

The first is to use Qualaroo and survey people. By asking people (right when they are on your website) a simple question of “how can I improve this page,” you’ll get tons of ideas.

You can even use Qualaroo to find out why people are visiting your website, which again will help you understand the type of people visiting your site. This will allow you to tailor your experience to them.

I ran a Qualaroo survey on my main blog page. The biggest feedback I got from you was that it was hard to find the exact content you were looking for.

And I know why too. It’s because I have marketing related content on everything. From ecommerce to SEO to content marketing…

I decided to try something out where when you land on the blog page, you can select the type of content that piques your interest and then all of the content gets tailored to your needs.

I also ran a Crazy Egg test to ensure that you like the change I made. Based on the Crazy Egg heatmap below, you can see that it was successful.

The bounce rate on my blog page dropped by 21% as well. 🙂

I then looked at the Crazy Egg scrollmap to see which elements/areas of the page have the most attention. This helped me determine where I should place the content filtering option.

The Crazy Egg scrollmap of my blog page shows that the content filtering option generates 70% of the page’s attention.

Placing the filtering in a place where there is a lot of attention ensures that I am giving you what you need in a place that is easy to find.

After you optimize your user experience, you want to focus on building a brand.

I recommend that you look at the pages on your site with high bounce rates and consider running this process in order to improve the user experience. When selecting the pages, make sure you are also picking pages that have decent traffic.

Hack #3: Build a brand

If you build a brand like Facebook or Amazon or any of the popular site, you’ll rank higher.

Eric Schmidt, the ex-CEO of Google, once said:

Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.

I ran an experiment, which helped build up my brand and my search traffic skyrocketed (unintentionally).

My traffic went from 240,839 unique visitors per month in June 2016:

To 454,382 unique visitors per month by August 2016:

Once I realized the power of branding, I started a podcast called Marketing School, and I started to publish videos on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn multiple times per week.

This has led me to generate 40,412 brand queries per month:

I’m even getting 3,806 brand queries per month on YouTube alone:

But as you know, producing good content doesn’t guarantee that your brand will grow.

Even if you build tools like me and release them for free (like what I did with Ubersuggest), it still won’t guarantee success.

But the one thing I have learned that works is the rule of 7.

When someone hears your message 7 times or sees it 7 times, they are more likely to resonate, build a connection, and continually come back.

So how do you get people to come back to your site?

The simplest solution that I’ve found to work is a free tool called Subscribers.

It leverages browser notifications to get people to “subscribe” to your website. It’s better than email because it is browser-based, which means people don’t have to give you their name or email address.

And then every time you want to get people to come back to your website, you simply send them a notification.

Look at how I’ve gotten over 42,316 people back to my site 174,281 times. That’s roughly 4 times per person.

Based on the rule of 7, I only have 3 more times to go. 😉

The way I use Subscribers is that I send out a notification blast every time I release a blog post.

The push looks something like this:

And instantly I’m able to get people back to my site:

When you start using Subscribers you won’t see results right away. It takes time to build up your subscriber base, but it happens pretty fast.

Typically, you’ll generate a browser notification subscriber three times faster than an email subscriber.

Conclusion

If you only focus on things like on-page SEO, link building, or even blogging, you won’t dominate Google.

Why?

Because that is what everyone else focuses on. You have to do more if you want to beat the competition.

By doing what’s best for the user, you’ll have a better chance of beating everyone else.

Just look at me, I do what every other SEO does plus more. Sometimes this causes my traffic to dip in the short run, but in the long run, it generally climbs.

From creating compelling copy so people want to click on your listing, to optimizing your user experience, to building a brand… you have to go beyond the SEO basics.

SEO has become extremely competitive. 5 years ago, it was much easier to rank at the top of Google.

If you use the 3 hacks above, here’s how long it will typically take to notice results.

Optimizing title tags – assuming you run successful tests, you can see small results in 30 to 60 days. Over time the results get even better.
Improving user experience – making your user experience better will instantly improve your metrics such as bounce rate, pageviews per visitor, time on site, and conversion rate. As for search rankings, it does help, but not instantly. Typically, it takes about 4 to 6 months to see results from this.
Brand building – sadly it takes years. Sure, tools like Subscribers will instantly grow your traffic, but it won’t impact your search rankings right away. You have no choice but to build a brand.

So which one of these hacks are you going to test out first?

The post How I Boosted My Rankings Without Creating Content or Building Links appeared first on Neil Patel.

Yoast SEO 8.1: Gutenberg part 2, introducing the snippet preview

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Yoast SEO 8.1: Gutenberg part 2, introducing the snippet preview

Yoast SEO 8.1: Gutenberg part 2, introducing the snippet preview

Two weeks ago, we launched Yoast SEO 8.0. In it, we shipped the first part of our integration with Gutenberg: the sidebar. That release was the foundation on which we are building the next parts of our integration with the new WordPress editor. In Yoast SEO 8.1, we introduce part 2: a Gutenberg-proof snippet preview. Also, a much better experience in the content analysis thanks to webworkers!

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Gutenberg, meet the Yoast SEO snippet preview

Yoast SEO 8.0, unfortunately, had to make do without a snippet preview inside Gutenberg. There were still some kinks to iron out before we could add that snippet preview to our WordPress plugin. The code for that new modal — the pop-up screen — had to be written from the ground up, exclusively for Gutenberg. That code has now been added to Gutenberg’s core so every WordPress developer can make use of the modal inside the new editor. How awesome is that!

Here’s what snippet preview pop-up inside Gutenberg looks like:

You see that it looks just like the regular Yoast SEO snippet preview. It has all the features you know and love, like the true-to-life rendering of your snippet on both mobile as well as desktop screens, SEO title field editor with snippet variables, slug editor and meta descriptions, also with snippet variables. To open the snippet preview, you simply click on the Snippet Preview button in the Yoast SEO Gutenberg sidebar.

Another cool thing now available in Gutenberg is the Primary Category picker. This has been a staple for many years in Yoast SEO. It lets you make and set the primary category for a post. This will be automatically selected whenever you make a new post. We will port more features over to Gutenberg shortly.

What’s next

We, of course, have big plans for Gutenberg. There’s still a lot to be done and not everything we’re dreaming up is possible right now. Step by step, we’re turning Yoast SEO and Gutenberg into a dream combination. We’re not just porting over existing features to the new Gutenberg, but actively exploring what we can do and what we need to do that. In some cases that means we have to develop the support inside Gutenberg’s core ourselves, this way loads of developers can benefit from the results as well.

Speeding up the content analysis with webworkers

Speed = user experience. To keep Yoast SEO performing great, we added a dedicated webworker to our content analysis. Webworkers let you run a script in the background without affecting the performance of the page. Because it runs independently of the user interface, it can focus on one task and does that brilliantly. Webworkers are very powerful and help us to keep Yoast SEO stable, responsive and fast even when analyzing pages with thousands of words of content. Try it!

The update is available now

Yoast SEO 8.1 has a lot of improvements behind the scenes that should drastically improve how the plugin functions. We are dedicated to giving you the best possible user experience, while also improving our current features and laying the groundwork for new ones. And not to forget that new WordPress editor, right? Update and let us know what you think!

Read more: Why you should buy Yoast SEO Premium »

The post Yoast SEO 8.1: Gutenberg part 2, introducing the snippet preview appeared first on Yoast.

The evolution of search: succeeding in today’s digital ecosystem – part 2

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on The evolution of search: succeeding in today’s digital ecosystem – part 2

In the first part of our discussion on the evolution of search, we looked at the change in customer behaviors, which has led to a struggle between search engines and apps to remain relevant.

We also started to dissect key parts of the new digital ecosystem, looking in detail at the most obvious manifestation of these indirect answers, the information that powers these, and the change in mindset required to capitalize on the opportunities direct answers present. In this second part, we will consider further the outputs of the fundamental changes to search—and what this means for SEO as a channel in the future.

Voice is important, but we’re looking at it the wrong way

It wouldn’t be right to consider the evolution of search and featured snippets without discussing voice search. Many are looking to this as the new frontier for search, doubling down on strategies to become the answer to questions that people ask. Voice search is undoubtedly taking off in a big way, with 2016 being a turning point in the growth of the channel, but there are two challenges “voice marketers” will face: firstly, there is still a stigma to using voice in public—consumers may use quick commands, but they are yet to embrace the full capabilities of smart assistants among other people.

Secondly, smart speakers are becoming a part of people’s homes in a big way, with an estimated 40% of UK homes due to have an Amazon Echo in 2018. Despite this, companies will struggle to convince their audiences to receive unsolicited branded messages without permission. This is more of a problem in the wake of GDPR and claims of smart devices “listening in,” and I expect more tolerance to come in the future.

Until that point, it doesn’t matter if you’re the answer; users won’t know who has delivered the results they are listening to.

A much bigger opportunity in voice, although falling a little outside of the search marketer’s remit, are “skills.” When the app store launched, many of the first apps were utilitarian or games; the idea of a “branded” app was yet to be developed. However, as smartphones became ubiquitous, the prevalence of apps increased. I believe the same will be true of “skills.” For now, many of these provide data that the assistants cannot store first-hand, such as bus times and weather information. Over time, however, these could provide a branded experience for more conventional voice queries. Already, skills allow brands to provide a personalized response across voice. Importantly, as skills must be linked, these are solicited; or, put simply, you can brand the answers you give to user questions in an agreed format. Right now, this is a powerful tool; in the future, this will be a game-changer.

For those still looking to own the answers, owning the data feeds is key. While you can optimize for this in the same way as featured snippets, it’s harder to convince voice speakers, whose sole result has to be infallible or users will stop asking, that you are the one result to rule them all. This is why I believe Yext’s recent announcement that they will be pushing information directly to Alexa is as critical a change to search marketing as the launch of Penguin or Panda. For the first time, key data and knowledge feeds can be directly inputted into and brands can not only influence the information that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other platforms have on them (which is currently the case with answer optimization), they can own the narrative entirely.

As search engines look to promote results directly in search (whatever the format), this is a giant step forward towards the digital ecosystem of the future and should not be underestimated.

Speed and mobile are intrinsically linked; new formats will enable this

We’re all bored of hearing the phrase “content is king”—in fact, the “is king” moniker has been done to death. “Speed is king,” this probably does not carry the weight it needs to; and this is a shame, because it runs the risk of overlooking a crucial part of web marketing in 2018. From a pure SEO perspective, speed is now linked to improved visibility, in the same way that the interstitial ad penalty penalized sites for pop-ups.

However, if you’re blocking pop-ups or reducing your page load times for search traffic alone, you are firmly missing the point. This isn’t an “SEO thing.” This is a user experience essential, based on the changing demands of the digital-savvy customer in the modern age of technology; an audience that expects to quickly access the content they wish to furiously consume. Any delays or blockers in this process can be disastrous—not only to the brand, but to search engines as a whole.

Popular apps provide seamless, tailored experiences to their users; to stay as information leaders, this has to be replicated across search. A slow response, even if it’s not directly the fault of the provider, only serves to drive users away.

This is why Google is backing new formats; from accelerated mobile pages to progressive web apps and all device-focused changes (including in their index), the search giant is looking to improve the quality of the mobile web, a challenge it is uniquely well-positioned to undertake. As SEOs we should be embracing this—it’s better for our users. Yet we are limited by questions around tracking and data integrity (which Google is looking to change) and by the main engines’ ability to crawl and index JavaScript content, a programming language that will be key to bringing about the change that Google, Bing, and other providers need to stay relevant to their users.

For now, the biggest threat is mobile and apps; as other emerging technologies become more widely adopted, particularly in the immersive experience space, both the web and search engines will need to catch up to survive. And I believe that not only is it the responsibility of SEOs to drive forward these changes, it is both absolutely in our interest to do so and intrinsic to the continuation of investment in our channel. 

The future is bright, but SEO will never be the same

With the rise of apps and Google looking to push answers directly to users, reducing the importance of the website in the digital ecosystem, you could argue that the importance of SEO activity is dwindling. This would be a myopic view of the future; while the basis of our activity roadmap may change, there will be a requirement for optimization. As the major algorithm launches earlier in the decade fundamentally changed the way we operate and skills required to succeed in the channel, so too will the behavioral changes we are currently experiencing. As we have always done, we will adapt.

In his 2016 Brighton SEO talk, Jono Anderson argued that the digital marketer of the future will not need to learn new skill-sets but combine existing ones. For search marketers, this means focusing on specific areas of knowledge where we can be the most effective, instead of trying to know it all as we currently do. Most digital agencies have already separated content and SEO teams into two different, yet complementary work streams. Structuring technical and local experts into teams of their own is becoming more popular and in doing so, allows the marketers within them to shape their abilities around the requirements and objectives of their specialism.

Looking ahead, there will always be a place for search engines in the digital ecosystem, although their importance to the whole is yet to be decided. As such, there will be a continued opportunity (and need) for search marketing. The SEO of the future may be a very different person than now and the focus of digital agencies will be split between building brands, building web experiences, and structuring information to be easily understood by data feeds. But until agencies truly leave the ranking factors of the past behind and fully support this new digital world, powered by technology, convenience and customers, it will be at perpetual risk of becoming irrelevant to our audiences.

Writing great social media content for your blog

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Writing great social media content for your blog

Writing great social media content for your blog

I’ve always felt lucky blogging for Yoast.com. As I wrote before, I have an entire blog team that makes sure my post gets scheduled, is free of grammar or spelling errors and they publish it on social media. So I ‘only’ had to come up with an idea, which the team often helped me with, and type the post. I decided that if I ever were to outsource things on my own blog, it would be things like promotion and social media.

My struggle with social media

And then the inevitable happened. After I finished my previous post, I got a message: “Caroline, from now on, please write your own introduction for Facebook, Twitter, and the newsletter. Here’s some information for you. If you have any questions, let us know!” Hold on! Yes, I have questions! Starting with: “How do I do this?” and: “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write short messages? There’s a reason I’m not active on Twitter!” And, so began my struggle, and search, for the ultimate social media messages.

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Because truthfully, I’d rather type a 2000 word essay than one sentence for Facebook. When you’re reading this, I’ve already grabbed your attention. You’ve already made it down to this point in my post, which means that you want to read my message. On social media, I can’t spend over a hundred words to make my point. If I do, you might not click, you might scroll past my message and you’ll never see my post at all.

And that’s how I started my two-day research. Two days? Yes. I, of course, started rather late with this blog post and had almost no time to conduct proper research. So, all the information in this post is based on my common sense – and I’ll teach you how to use your common sense too! Oh, how amazing my job is. Truly. Well, apart from having to write my own social media messages now.

To click or not to click

When do you click on a Facebook message? When do you hit the like button? When do you leave a reply? And when do you take the effort to go to someone’s profile and visit their domain through Instagram if there’s a ‘link in bio’ message underneath a photo? Those questions were the most important for me the last few days, to figure out what the perfect message entails. To find the answer to these questions, you need to know who your audience is.

For my blog, that’s a rather easy answer: the goal audience for my blog is me! And people like me, of course. But, I started my blog because I love writing. I’m right in the middle of my audience: young mothers (and fathers, of course) who are struggling with parenthood and want reassurance that others are struggling too. I want people to laugh at my stories, but also to take their struggles and life a little less serious, in order to enjoy life more.

Experimenting on different platforms

While people who visit my blog always tell me I have a great sense of humor – except for my husband, he still claims I have no humor at all – my Facebook page didn’t reflect my blog at all and come to think of it, I didn’t even like Facebook.

I started experimenting on Instagram: my photos were more blunt, I used a lot of hashtags (thirty hashtags seems to be the maximum) and I treated Instagram as if I was talking to my best friend. Immediately, my engagement went up. People responded to my photos with more than just a heart, they actually left messages! I started to get to know my audience more and more, and then a few days ago I decided I’d use the same strategy on Facebook.

I took a notebook and wrote down when I was interested in a Facebook post from another company, and when I scrolled past. And, although this is personal (and not perfect) research, this works for me, since I am a reflection of my own audience. I made notes on the posts I clicked on: what was the message they wrote? What was the title of the post? Did the image appeal to me? And when did I decide not to click on a post?

I found out that I click the link if these three aspects: text, title, and photo of the post, appeal to me. There are messages I saw multiple times but I didn’t click them, because the Facebook image wasn’t appealing enough, or the leading text was too vague or didn’t catch my attention.

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How to find your voice on social media

It’s important your social media reflects your website. If you write for solo travelers who are 20 years old, it’d be strange if your social media posts are more appealing to people who’d rather stay in and haven’t taken a vacation in the last 20 years. Just like you once found your voice for your blog, you need to find your voice on social media too. And you’ll have to experiment before you find it. Here’s how to experiment:

Realize that your social media are part of your brand

Facebook, Instagram, and other social media are extensions of your blog. Try to find the reason why you follow someone on Instagram, hit the like button on Facebook or retweet a message on Twitter. It’s probably because you feel connected to someone or to the brand. Those social media accounts should reflect the blog, in this case.

Write different introductions

By writing and rewriting your Facebook messages a few times, you will eventually find the voice that fits your brand. You can’t be as elaborate on Facebook or Instagram as you are on your blog. You need to catch people’s attention and get them to click that link to your website.

With Facebook, you can easily re-post a post that’s a couple of months old. Check which posts performed less: you can look that up on your Facebook page under ‘Statistics’. Check the accompanying message you wrote, try to rewrite them and see if you can gain more clicks.

It’s all about strategy

As much as you need a blog planning, you also need a social media planning and a strategy. If you post on Facebook only once a week, you probably won’t reach a lot of people. However, if you post once or twice a day, you’ll see your reach going up. Those posts don’t always have to be a link to your blog, especially not when you only blog every other day or once a week. Share images, ask questions, share links to other blogs in your niche or share quotes. Look at your competition and try to find a new angle to implement on your social media profiles.

Read more: How to use social media »

And now it’s time for me to write a nice introduction for social media so you’ll actually end up clicking and reading this message. Wish me luck. Oh and please drop your tips on me as well! You have no idea how much I learn from the comments you leave on my blog posts!

Keep reading: Social media strategy: where to begin? »

 

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Search basics: the difference between URL structure and Information Architecture

Posted by on Aug 27, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Search basics: the difference between URL structure and Information Architecture

Search basics: the difference between URL structure and Information Architecture

I’ve recently noticed some confusion around the industry on the differences between URL structures and Information Architecture (IA). I thought it was worth clarifying a few points and giving you all some language that is useful when talking about the differences.

Pre-requisites – if you aren’t familiar with the following elements, it’s worth reading these primers before you dive in deeper here:

What is a URL?
What are the SEO considerations for URLs?

Google’s guidelines for URLs

What is Information Architecture?

That article focuses specifically on IA considerations for SEO, for a broader overview of IA more generally, this is a great resource

The specific thing I want to clarify is the differences between decisions about the path in your URLs and decisions about your IA as this is where I often see a ton of confusion.

Decisions about URL structures and decisions about the IA of your website both involve questions about grouping and hierarchies of pages. For example:

URL: should the path of an individual product be:

/product-slug
/products/slug
/products/category/slug
/products/category/sub-category/slug

IA: how should we group our product pages and link between them:

Should there be a link “up” to the parent category?
How many “levels” of sub-category page types should there be?
How do we link between sibling products in the same (sub-)category?
How many products can we reach in (e.g.) 3 clicks from the homepage?
How should we handle facets?

The fact that both concern groupings and hierarchies has led too often to people misinterpreting IA questions as URL questions.

From an SEO perspective, most of the grouping and hierarchy questions we care about are questions about which pages should exist (e.g. should there be an indexable page for “red men’s shoes above a size 11”) and how should our pages be linked together (both from a crawling perspective – thinking about considerations like click depth, and from a ranking perspective – thinking about considerations like internal link equity).

Unfortunately, I’ve too often seen these IA questions expressed as URL considerations, and this can lead to advice that is less effective than it should be. For many of these IA questions, you can come down on either side of the IA decision with either URL structure:

You can choose to have a (sub-)category page type without necessarily having the (sub-)category appear in the URL as a keyword or as a folder (and indeed, there are times that this is a good idea if products can be in multiple categories or if they often move category)
You can choose to link “up” the hierarchy or “across” to sibling products with or without those link targets sharing elements of their paths (e.g. a product page at /product-slug can link to a parent page at /category even if it doesn’t have a URL of /category/product-slug)

In general, the IA considerations are more important than the URL considerations, and you should focus on the Information Architecture with higher priority. It’s IA that governs the flow of internal link equity (PageRank) and also that governs crawlability and discoverability of different pages and page types. In general when we talk about pages being “higher in the IA” or “closer to the homepage” we mean in click-depth rather than folder structure. You can’t fix IA issues with URL changes alone. For whatever IA decisions you make, you can then make decisions around how to structure the paths for your pages’ URLs to make the best trade-off you can between the constant tensions:

It can be good to have appropriate keywords in the path (for users and search engines(*))
Human-readable paths are helpful (and structure can help with reporting)
BUT shorter paths are generally better than longer

(*) see “the importance of keywords in URLs” below

Probably the only real constraint that paths create for IA is that if you go down the path of having nested folders, that will generally imply the existence of pages at each level of folder. In other words, a page at /level1/level2/level3 implies that /level1/level2 will also exist as a real page (as much for users as anything else).

Summary of IA vs. URLs

Information Architecture decisions for search performance focus on:

What (kinds of) pages should exist on my site?
How should our pages and page types link to one another?

You may choose to group pages of the same page type together by, for example, placing them in a folder, but this is an independent decision about URL structure. In general, URL structure decisions are less important than IA decisions.

How important are keywords in URLs?

At MnSummit, my colleague Rob heard Google representative John Mueller say that there was no SEO need to translate URLs for foreign language sites. This surprised me, because (unless Google is already translating all inputs and outputs) this implies that keywords in the path make no difference in search either. I would have thought that all else being equal a page called /shoes/red would outperform /products/12512 for a whole variety of reasons.

So: I’m inclined to add this to the list of things that Google says are true that may be technically true, if read narrowly enough, but are unhelpful in the real world. My most charitable reading is that John is saying something like “Google does not have a specific element of the algorithm that checks language in page paths”.

So, although the primary focus of this post has been IA considerations I do think that it’s sensible to have some element of descriptive keyword in your URLs because although we can’t be certain it’s an explicit ranking factor:

Above everything else, it’s good for usability
Google says this explicitly in their guidelines

It is a keyword-relevance signal of some kind (however weak)
Google’s guidelines only argument is the usability one above, but that whole guideline section is explicitly about performance in Google, with primarily technical advice, and it seems reasonable to me to believe that they are saying we prefer (and rank better) pages like this because users prefer them
We do know explicitly that URL, path, and filename are explicit keyword signals for some file types

It is more likely to result in relevant anchor text in external links
A point made even in Google’s own SEO guide (in a section entitled “Simple URLs convey content information” which supports the arguments above as well)

I would expect a better click-through rate from the search results when it does rank

And for sure try to have URLs in the correct target language. Regardless of whether you agree with me or John Mueller about the SEO benefit, I think we both agree that your users would prefer URLs in their own language.

A note on changing URLs and moving content

There are always risks to moving content – even with well-implemented redirects and no mistakes – and so you should only undertake URL changes with care. In general, IA changes are more reversible as things are more likely to go back to how they were if you undo the change while the nature of a 301 (“permanent”) redirect is that it should signal that things are not going to change back.

For that reason, while we would often recommend moving from dynamic URLs with a bunch of parameters in them to cleaner URLs, and may recommend moving from impenetrable URLs to more readable ones, it will generally be hard to justify a move from reasonably-good URLs to arguably-better. Do your own risk assessment, and proceed with caution!

How to create an optimized career page for your website

Posted by on Aug 25, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to create an optimized career page for your website

How to create an optimized career page for your website

With recruitment as competitive a market as it has ever been, it’s essential to ensure every careers page or job vacancy on your website is fully optimized in order to place it in front of the perfect candidate online.

They are some of the largest and most powerful websites around, but typically online job boards lack page authority, so while you cannot compete with them on a domain level, you can still outrank these huge companies with good SEO.

The next step is selling your vacancy to the candidate, which can sometimes be a tough process, but one that your job pages can definitely help you out with.

How should you go about doing this?

Conduct thorough keyword research

Your first port of call to ensure your careers pages are fully optimized is to conduct some thorough keyword research in order to identify relevant keywords to target on your job pages.

Location-specific job searches invariably have a favorable ratio between search volume and keyword difficulty (competitiveness), so it’s crucial to ensure you are targeting properly before you begin to optimize.

Ahrefs is my tool of choice for this due to the ease of use and array of filters available to use.

Use internal links

Internal links are your chance to tell Google which pages on your site are the most important. You can manage your internal links as you wish, but one recommended strategy is for any page you are trying to rank, you should point internal links at it from the more powerful pages on your website.

A good way of finding these authoritative pages is by using the ‘Top Pages’ category in ahrefs (other tools are available) which will filter your pages by URL rating (authority) in a descending order. You are left with a list of your most powerful pages ready to be linked from.

When trying to boost vacancy pages, adding natural looking anchor text along the lines of ‘Like what you are reading? See our latest job openings’ and linking to the live positions can work well.

Internal linking is an oft-underutilized strategy in SEO and Andy Drinkwater is one of the more prominent voices on the topic often sharing useful, actionable information with the SEO community.

Maximize your content

Ensure the copy featured on each of your careers pages is optimized to rank well. Your content should be specific to your company and the individual role, with a minimum word count of 250 words.

Make it enticing! And if your company has a personality, ensure you show it.

The copy itself should be relevant and informative to the user, answering any specific queries they may have. The more information you can give the prospect the better.

Avoid duplicate content at all costs and try to be creative – you can assume the job seeker is looking at a number of job posts so you really need to try and stand out here.

Go behind the scenes

Provide potential employees with a look behind the scenes at your offices before they apply for a role. This is likely to benefit both you and the prospective employee as they can see if the environment appeals to them.

An office walkthrough is the ideal way to show what life is like at your company, plus the tour footage can form part of your Google Business listing (if recorded by an accredited Google Business). Appearing alongside your company address and telephone number, it’s an effective way to boost your site’s local SEO.

If you really want to stand out from your competitors, however, why not invest in a 360 degree tour of your office? This can also be VR-based. Interactive and realistic, it’s the next best thing to being in your office in person and will help a prospective employee to really visualize working for you.

Once you’ve taken these factors into consideration, you also need to think about Google Jobs.

What is Google Jobs?

Having launched in the US in 2017 and the UK in July this year, Google’s new job search tool Google Jobs looks set to radically alter the way job seekers search for roles, also impacting recruitment agencies and their processes.

Google caused a disturbance in the flight industry with the launch of Google Flights, which saw an immediate uptake in bookings from customers who were frustrated by the tendency of airlines to withhold information about additional costs such as baggage fees whilst booking, in order to make their flights appear cheaper.  

Inc.com attributed the success of Google Flights to increased transparency to customers, who are able to see all the relevant costs prior to booking a flight, plus any predicted delays. The impact of the launch of Google Flights was immediate, with Business Insider stating the platform was “…an embarrassment to the airline industry”.

The search engine’s success in identifying and capitalizing upon weaknesses in the travel and tourism industry is expected to be replicated in the recruitment industry with the launch of Google Jobs.

Simply recognizing users’ frustration at a lack of information, collating results at once and then proceeding to provide this information immediately results in a more valuable service for users.

What does the launch of Google Jobs mean for job vacancies online?

Google Jobs has been designed to simplify and speed up the process of job-hunting for the job-seeker. At the US launch of Google Jobs last year, Google CEO Pichai Sundar announced that the purpose of the tool was to “better connect employers and job seekers”.

Users are able to filter roles by key criteria such as necessary qualifications and experience, working hours, salary and commute. Recruiters and employment platforms currently working with Google Jobs include LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor and Payscale (but interestingly, not Indeed).

The impact on recruitments companies will be severe. Even if you were ranking #1, you will now have the Google Jobs ‘import’ sitting above you plus the usual PPC ads.

While it’s safe to assume that Google will weight Google Jobs above all other recruitment platforms, it is worth bearing in mind that the company recently received a $5 billion fine from the EU for abusing their Android dominance, so they may – initially at least – proceed with more caution than usual.

What does this mean for my job vacancy?

Google Jobs pulls through vacancies from many recruitment company sites and jobs boards. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there isn’t the ability to get your (a SMEs) specific role featured in the platform without posting it on one of these jobs sites/boards.

For businesses who have steered clear of these in the past, now may be the time to start to signing up.

We can assume Google Jobs’ popularity is only going to increase so if you want to maximize the chance of your vacancy being seen, don’t get left behind.

 

Ask Yoast: Can Google deal with Lazy Load?

Posted by on Aug 24, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Ask Yoast: Can Google deal with Lazy Load?

Ask Yoast: Can Google deal with Lazy Load?

We’ve said it time and again: site speed is a crucial aspect of your SEO. That’s why we often write about site speed tools, speed optimization, and other things you need to know to make your site lightning fast. One factor in site speed is image optimization: on most sites, images will play a part in loading times. So, giving your image SEO some thought will pay off.

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Besides resizing and compressing your images to improve loading times, there’s the option to implement ‘lazy loading’ on your site. Lazy loading means that an image or object on your site doesn’t load until it appears in your visitor’s browser. For example: if a page has 8 images, only those that appear ‘above the fold’ load right away, while the others load as the user scrolls down. This can significantly improve speed, especially on pages that contain a lot of images. There are several plugins you can use to add lazy loading to your WordPress site. But is there really no catch? Will Google still index all your images?

MaAnna emailed us, wondering exactly that:

I’m testing the lazy load image function in WP Rocket. In online testers like WebPage Test, the waterfall doesn’t show the images loading, but when I do a Fetch and Render in Google Search Console all images on a page are shown. Can Google deal with lazy load and still index our images, as Fetch and Render seems to indicate?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Can Google deal with Lazy Load?

“Yes, it can. It renders the page, it waits a bit and it scrolls down the page a bit to generate all the events that it needs to generate to make sure that it has loaded the entire page.

So yes, it can deal with that. You’re very fine using something like that lazy load image function. Google actually has code itself as well, in which it promotes the lazy loading of images because it really enhances people’s experience because pages get faster using lazy load. So, by all means, do use it. Use it well. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Do you have an SEO-related question? A pressing SEO dilemma to which you can’t find the answer? Send an email to [email protected], and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: you may want to check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question could already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, please contact us through our support page.

Read more: Does site speed influence SEO? »

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Out now: Keyword research training!

Posted by on Aug 24, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Out now: Keyword research training!

Out now: Keyword research training!

As of today, there’s finally an online Yoast Academy training course on a crucial aspect of SEO: keyword research! We’re so excited! And judging from the comments we got when we announced the training course, so are many of our visitors. And you should be, as well! In the Keyword research training, you’ll find out what keywords are most effective for your site. And how you can rank for those words!

You can get the course for $129, but only in the first week, so don’t wait too long!

Find out how to rank for your most important keywords with our Keyword research training »

$129 – Buy now » Info

Get the new Keyword research training Now$149 $129 (ex VAT) for course, certificate and badge
Why should I be excited about the Keyword research training?

Doing keyword research is not an option, it’s essential. It forms the basis of everything SEO. Without keywords, Google can’t make sense of your copy. Without keywords, there is nothing to build a site structure around. Without keywords, technical optimization is basically pointless. Do you want to know which words your audience uses to find you? Are you frustrated with competing with sites you just can’t seem to beat? Are you ranking for keywords, but not getting any traffic? The keyword research training will solve these problems for you.

What will I learn in the Keyword research training?

The Keyword research training course is an online training you’ll get access to for a full year. You’ll go through every step of the actual keyword research process. In each module, world-renowned SEO experts like Joost de Valk and Jono Alderson provide you with theory, best practices and tips. Then, you can apply your new knowledge immediately, by building your own keyword list step by step.

First, you’ll make a business profile with your mission and unique selling points (USPs). After that, you’ll draft your first list of keywords. Then, you’ll assess the potential traffic, potential conversion and potential to rank top 3 for your keywords.

At the end of the course, you’ll end up with a keyword list to start creating pages and copy for your most effective keywords immediately! And no worries if you’re short on time, you can also just focus on the theory. By the way, you don’t need any previous knowledge to take this training course. We start with the very basics. Nor do you need to use any paid tools: all of the tools we discuss are free.

Get feedback on your strategy!

When you’ve completed your keyword list, you may want to confirm you’re on the right track. That’s why we offer feedback on your work if you want it. If you choose the feedback package, a Yoast expert will check your keyword list within two weeks, and provide feedback on your keywords and their potential. This way, you can make sure your keyword list will help you rank for your most efficient keywords!

Get the Keyword research training with feedback Now$199 $179 (ex VAT) for training and feedback
Conclusion

The Keyword research training provides you with all the tools you need to get the first step in SEO right. In fact, the Keyword research training even goes beyond SEO. You’ll also learn a lot about content marketing in general. It’s a great way to kickstart or recharge your SEO strategy, whether you maintain a blog, an e-commerce site, or any other type of website. Make sure your content gets the attention it deserves by taking the Yoast Academy Keyword research training! You can get it by simply clicking the button below. It is currently available for $129, so get it before the offer expires!

Get the new Keyword research training NowOnly $149 $129 (ex VAT) to master the essential first step of SEO

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Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide

Posted by on Aug 24, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide

Keyword research for SEO: the ultimate guide

Keyword research is the first step in the SEO copywriting process and an essential part of any SEO strategy. Before you write your website content you need to think about which search terms you want to be found for and this means getting inside people’s heads to find out which words they use when searching. Then you can use these exact terms in your content so that you start ranking for them. This is keyword research and this ultimate guide will take you through the many steps involved.

Find out how to rank for your most important keywords with our Keyword research training »

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What is keyword research?Why is keyword research important?How to do keyword researchStep 1: What is your mission?Step 2: Make a list of keywordsStep 3: Look at search intentStep 4: Construct landing pagesLong-term keyword strategyThe importance of long tail keyword strategyWhat is the competition doing?Synonyms and related keywordsConclusion on keyword research for SEO
What is keyword research?

Before we start explaining the process of keyword research, let’s look at the most important concepts behind it.

Keyword research can be defined as the work you do to come up with an extensive list of keywords you want to rank for.

Keyword strategy is about the decisions you make on the basis of that keyword research.

Key phrases are keywords containing multiple words. We tend to use the word keyword all the time, but we don’t necessarily mean it’s only one word. ‘WordPress SEO’ is a keyword, as is ‘Google Analytics plugin’. Keywords usually consist of multiple words! So, in this guide, when we talk about keywords, we usually mean a phrase, rather than a single word.

Long tail keywords are more specific and less common because they focus more on a niche. The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank for the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail keywords.

Focus keyword is the keyword or the key phrase you most want your page to be found for. You should put your focus keyword into the meta box of the Yoast SEO plugin.

Search intent is all about discovering what a searcher actually wants. These are not just keywords, but the underlying goals of what a searcher wants to know, do or buy.

Read more: What is keyword research? »

Why is keyword research important?

Proper keyword research is important because it will make clear which search terms your audience uses. At Yoast, we frequently come across clients who use one set of words when describing their products, while their target audience uses a completely different set of words. These sites aren’t found by their potential customers because of a mismatch in word use.

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Sometimes a marketing department decides to give their products a certain name. That can be a smart marketing decision. It can be a way to make people remember your product. For example, you don’t rent out vacation homes, but ‘vacation cottages’. Be aware that very few people search for ‘vacation cottages’ though. If you optimize your text for these terms, you’ll probably rank well on these specific terms. However, you won’t generate a lot of traffic with these terms and you’ll miss a large part of your potential audience.

It doesn’t make any sense to optimize for words that people don’t use. Good keyword research makes sure that you use the same words as your target audience and this makes the whole effort of optimizing your website far more worthwhile. In addition, by looking at search intent, you find out which questions your customer has. Those questions should get an answer in the form of quality content.

Keep reading: The basis of keyword research »

How to do keyword research

For us, there are four steps to keyword research. First, you write down the mission of your business. Next, you make a list of all the keywords you want to be found for. Then you look at search intent and finally, you create landing pages for each of those keywords. This ultimate guide takes you through these steps in much more detail.

Step by step, we’ll guide you through the entire keyword research process, and we’ll give you practical tips to easily start your own keyword research.

Step 1: What is your mission?

Before starting anything, think about your mission. Think about questions like: Who are you? What is your website about? What makes you special? And what promises do you make on your website?

Read on: What is the mission of your website »

A lot of people can’t effectively answer these questions at first. You have to figure out what makes you stand out from the crowd. So take your time and literally write down your mission on a piece of paper, a computer or an iPad – anything will do, as long as you do it. Once you’re able to answer these questions in detail, you will have taken the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.

Things to consider: How competitive is your market?

The market you’re in determines whether your mission will prove genius enough to sell your products to people. Some markets are highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have huge budgets for marketing in general and SEO in particular. Competing in these markets is tough, so ranking in these markets is also going to be tough.

Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great facilities for children, making the cruises especially suitable for young or single parents. Offering great cruises to Hawaii for young parents could very well be what makes your service unique. Look for the thing that makes your product stand out from the competition. This should be your mission, your niche – and this is what you have to offer your audience.

If you’re launching into in a competitive market, you’re probably best to start out small. Once you ‘own’ a small part of that niche and become a big name in the business of cruises to Hawaii, you could try to go one level up and sell your cruises to a larger (more general) audience. Your mission will then become much more general as well.

Step 2: Make a list of keywords

The second step of keyword research is creating a list of your keywords. With your mission in mind, try to get into the heads of your potential buyers. What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using while looking for your amazing service or product? Ask yourself these questions and write down as many answers as possible.

If your mission is clear, you will have a pretty clear image of your niche and your unique selling points (the things that set your business apart from others). These are the terms you want to be found for.

To consider: Make sure the keywords fit your site

Be aware that you should be found for terms that match your site. If we went crazy and did our very best to make yoast.com rank for ballet shoes, people would be rather disappointed to find our site. They would probably instantly go back to Google. If we ranked for ballet shoes, we would have a massive bounce rate. And a high bounce rate tells Google that people are not finding what they are looking for based on their search term. This would inevitably lead to a lower ranking on ballet shoes for our site – and that would be completely justified because we know nothing about ballet, nor about shoes for that matter.

Tools you can use

Making a list of possible search terms is hard. Up until a few years ago you could just check Google Analytics and see the terms people used to find your website, but unfortunately, that’s no longer possible. So you have pretty much no idea which terms people use in search engines to end up at your website. Luckily, there are still some other tools which make your keyword research a bit easier. Read our post about tools you can use in your keyword research for more tips and tricks.

Step 3: Look at search intent

Much of today’s SEO strategy should revolve around answering the questions people have. Whenever someone enters a search query into a search engine, they are on a quest for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer. In my SEO basics article on search intent, I said:

“Search intent has to do with the reason why people conduct a specific search. Why are they searching? Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question? Are they searching for a specific website? Or, are they searching because they want to buy something?”

When planning your content, always ask yourself these questions. There are four types of intents:

Informational intent: Just like it says on the tin, people are trying to find information on a specific topic.
Navigational intent: People want to access a specific website by entering the term in a search engine.
Commercial intent: People want to buy something sometime soon and are doing research before making a purchase.
Transactional intent: People are looking to buy something after doing their commercial intent searches.

Find out which intents apply to you and try to answer these search intents by literally giving people what they want.

Step 4: Construct landing pages

The next step towards a long-term keyword strategy is to create awesome landing pages. In the past, every one of the keywords you want to be found for got its own landing page. Today, however, search engines are so smart that they mostly use search intent to give searchers the best answer to their questions. The page that answers those questions best will rank on top. Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords so you don’t have to create landing pages for all subtle variations of a keyword.  You can just optimize a page for multiple keywords.

Create an overview

We would advise you to build your page structure in a well-structured way – using a spreadsheet programme like Excel or Google Docs/Sheets is a great way to do this. Create a table then add your list of keywords. Using a table forces you to set up a structure and to make relevant landing pages. Put the search terms in the first column and add columns for the different levels of your site’s structure.

Create landing pages

Then you’ll need to build a landing page for your search terms, but you don’t have to create all these pages immediately – it can be a long-term thing. The more specific your search term is, the further down into your site structure the term’s landing page belongs. The most important keywords will lead to your cornerstone content articles. These are the keywords you definitely want to rank for. To do this, you create the best possible content about that keyword – authoritative and all-encompassing, just like the ultimate guide you are reading right now. All your supporting articles will link to this cornerstone content. This should be part of your internal linking strategy, which Yoast SEO Premium can help you implement.

After completing your keyword research for SEO, you should have a clear overview of the terms people use and the terms you want the pages on your site to be found for. This overview should guide you in writing content for your website

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Long-term keyword strategy

No website should rely on one single keyword or one keyphrase for its traffic. You should use your mission as a starting point, then take our three steps in carrying out proper keyword research and work towards a solid base: a keyword strategy. This section of our ultimate guide explains why it’s important to have a long-term keyword strategy.

How many keywords?

We can’t tell you the exact number of keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of them – as many as you can think of. However, more than 1000 keywords is probably too many!

Even if you’re a reasonably small business, you’ll probably end up with a couple of hundred keywords. But there’s no need to create pages for all of these straight away. The great thing about having a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress is that you can add content bit by bit. Think about what keywords you want to rank for now, and which ones aren’t immediately so important. Understand your priorities and plan the creation of your content.

Keep on reading: Managing a growing blog: content planning »

Ad hoc keyword research strategies

In an ideal world, you would do your keyword research, make a beautiful table and create landing pages for each one. Your site structure would be flawless and you would blog and write every day making your site rank higher and higher in Google. Unfortunately, we live in the real world.

Of course, your keyword research will not always be as extensive. And some posts or articles aren’t written as part of an awesome strategy, but just because the topic was in the news or something inspired you to write it. That’s just how these things work. But this doesn’t have to be a problem.

If you’re writing something that doesn’t exactly fit your strategy, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make that content rank. You could still use it to rank for something related to the terms in the list of your keyword strategy. Use tools like Google Trends to choose which keyword you’d like to rank for. At least take some time to think about how to make your article or blog fit your strategy. After all, if you are writing valuable content, you might as well make it rank!

Learn how to write engaging copy and how to organize it well on your site: Combine our SEO copywriting and Site structure training. »

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The importance of long tail keyword strategy

Focusing on long tail keywords should be an important part of a long-term keyword research strategy. Long tail keywords are keywords or key phrases that are more specific (and usually longer) than more common keywords, often called “head” keywords. Long tail keywords get less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they focus more on a specific product or topic. Read our post about the importance of long tail keywords if you want to know why you should focus on long tail keywords when optimizing your site.

Read more: Make friends with the long tail »

What is the competition doing?

Whether you should go after long tail keywords, which are specific and consist of multiple words, or after head terms largely depends on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you’ll have a hard time ranking on competitive head terms. If you have little competition, you’ll even be able to rank for head terms. So how do you determine your competition? What should you be looking for? There are two strategies:

Google and analyze your competition
Try, evaluate and try again.

Google and analyze your competition

Google the keywords that came out of your keyword research. Start with your most ‘head’ term. The most general one. Check out the search engine result page (SERP). These are the websites you’ll be competing against once you optimize your content for such a keyword. To check whether or not you’ll be able to compete with the websites on that result page, analyze the following things:

Are the websites professional websites? Are they company websites? Ask yourself whether or not you are an ‘equal’ to these companies. Does your website belong among these sites? Is your company of similar size and does it have as much influence in your niche?
Does the SERP show well-known brands? It’s harder to rank when you’re competing against sites with strong brand-names. If brands are known from TV or radio commercials, your chances to rank will become even smaller.
What about the content of these websites? Is the content well written and well optimized? How long are the articles on the sites? If your competition has poor content, you’ll have a larger chance to outrank them!
Are there any ads in Google? And how much is the pay-per-click in Google adwords? Search terms that have a high pay-per-click are usually also harder to rank for in the organic results.

Keep reading: Keyword Research Tools »

One simple question

It all boils down to a single question: how does my website hold up, compared to the websites in the SERPs? Are you of equal size and marketing budget: go ahead and focus on those head terms. If not: try a more long tail keyword.

The next step is to do the same analysis with a keyword that’s slightly more long tail. Longer and more specific search terms will generate less traffic, but ranking on those terms will be much easier. Focusing on a whole bunch of long tail keywords combined could very well attract a lot of traffic. Once you’ve managed to rank for those long tail keywords, aiming for more head terms will become a bit easier.

Try, evaluate and try again

Once you’ve done a thorough analysis of your chances to rank on a specific term, the next step is to write an amazing article and optimize it accordingly. And hit publish. Make sure you’ll attract some nice backlinks. And wait a little while. Check out your rankings. Does your article pop up? Did it hit the first page of Google’s SERPs? Or is it hidden away on page 2 or 3? Make sure to evaluate your articles in the SERPs. Google the terms you’ve optimized your articles for. Check whether or not your SEO is paying off!

If you’re not able to rank on the first page, try to write another article, focused on a (even) more long tail keyword. Make it a little bit more specific, more niche. And see how that goes. Evaluate again. Continue this process until you hit that first page of the SERPs!

Synonyms and related keywords

Our Yoast SEO Premium plugin allows you to optimize your content for synonyms and related keywords – up to five per article in fact. This is a functionality we’re developing and extending currently, to make our content analysis just as smart as Google. Marieke has written a roadmap for this here. We’ve also written a post about why you shouldn’t use your focus keyword more than once.

Singular or plural focus keyword?

Should you aim for the singular or the plural keyword? Well, this depends on the query. As Google is learning more about search intent of your query, it is able to better guess what you’re looking for. For instance, if you search for book, you get a different result than if you search for books. Apparently Google thinks that in the first case you’re looking for a definition or certain stories, in the second case it believes you’re looking for books to buy. So make sure you know what you offer on your page and that it fits with the query and results Google gives on that query.

Read on: How to choose the perfect focus keyword »

Conclusion on keyword research for SEO

Keyword research should be the start of any sustainable SEO strategy. The result will be a long list of keywords for which you’d like to be found. But the hardest part is still ahead: writing all that content. You should write articles and blog posts on every single keyword you would like to be found for. That’s quite a challenge!

Keep on reading: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »

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