SEO Articles

How to Increase Page Speed (Easy Guide)

Improve PageSpeed

PageSpeed is a critical element for your website’s success. Besides being one of the known ranking factors, it’s also an important usability metric.

Nobody (people or search engines) want to spend their time waiting for your pages to load, especially when there are dozens of other websites on the same topic that load faster.

The good news is that there are ways to improve your page speed by optimizing your website’s infrastructure and following some best practices.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

What is PageSpeed?

Page speed is the number of seconds that a page takes to load until it becomes fully available to users.

Page speed should not be confused with ‘website speed’. Website speed is the average pagespeed of a sample of pages from the same site.

The loading speed of a particular page might be different from the average (it can be slower or faster), that’s why it’s important to individually test and optimize the speed of all your pages.

Why is page speed important for SEO?

Back in April 2010, Google officially announced that page speed is part of the Google ranking algorithm.

The main reasons that forced them to add page speed as a ranking factor were:

  • Fast websites make users happy and they spend more time on a website.
  • Fast websites reduce operating costs (less bandwidth and better use of server resources)
  • Fast websites generate more sales (and conversions in general).

Fast forward to today, pagespeed is now more important than ever.

Statistics show that slow loading websites are losing customers since a large majority of users are not willing to wait for more than 3 seconds for a website to load.

Website Speed and Bounce Rate
Website Speed and Bounce Rate

In addition, a number of studies show that there is a correlation between Google rankings and page speed. Websites ranking in the first places of Google load faster than websites appearing in the lower places.

Pagespeed is a page ranking factor meaning that it affects each page individually and not the website as a whole.

What is the ideal page speed?

Unofficially, the ideal pagespeed is less than 3 seconds for both desktop and mobile websites. I say ‘unofficially’ because this is a number coming from user surveys and studies and it’s not the official number used by the Google algorithms during the ranking process.

The way Google is treating pagespeed is by categorizing pages into ‘really good’ and ‘pretty bad’.

This means that if a website is too slow, this may have a negative impact on its rankings. Otherwise, the algorithm treats all the websites the same.

You can watch the following video from Google that discusses how Google deals with pagespeed and site speed in general.

Video: How Google Measures Site Speed

As a general rule of thumb, you need to take all necessary actions to ensure that your website loads a fast as possible.

Slow websites offer bad user experience and this means they lose money and customers.

15 Ways to Increase PageSpeed

To improve your page speed, follow the best practices below.

  1. Compress and optimize your images
  2. Optimize the delivery of videos
  3. Enable caching
  4. Minify CSS and JS
  5. Eliminate render-blocking scripts
  6. Use scripts asynchronously
  7. Leverage browser caching
  8. Use preloading and prefetching of resources
  9. Move to a faster host
  10. Deactivate unnecessary plugins
  11. Upgrade your CMS software and plugins
  12. Upgrade to the latest version of PHP
  13. Consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  14. Optimize your DB
  15. Use Google Page Speed Module

1. Compress and optimize your images

In the majority of cases, a webpage is slow because of the number and size of images. Good quality images and other visual elements are important for SEO and usability so removing them completely is not an option.

What you should do instead is try to minimize their file size without sacrificing their quality.

Follow the recommendations below:

Use the right size of images – Before uploading an image to your website, re-size it to the maximum width you’ll need.

For example, if the maximum width you show images on your blog is 1200px, then it’s a waste to upload images that are bigger than this.

You can use tools like Photoshop, Gimp or Pixelmator to open an image, change its dimensions and export to a web-friendly format like jpg or png.

Use an image optimizer (extremely important) – The next step is to use an image optimizer. Images exported through Photoshop or pixelmator are not completely optimized when it comes to optimum file size.

Tools like imageOptim (for mac users) or image compressor can dramatically reduce the file size of an image without affecting its quality.

Look at the screenshot below. Both images look exactly the same and they have the same dimensions. The image on the right is 56% smaller in file size.

image compression
Image Compression Example.
These two steps alone will reduce the size of your images and this will have a huge impact on your page loading speed, especially on mobile devices.

Use responsive images – Upgrade WordPress to the latest version so that you can take advantage of responsive images.

What this feature does is two things:

  • When you upload an image to the WordPress media library, it automatically creates a set of images that have different sizes.
  • When a page is loaded and depending on the resolution, it automatically shows the equivalent image size to users.

This means that on mobile users are served a smaller size image and this improves the mobile pagespeed, especially on pages with lots of images.

If you’re not on WordPress, you can get the help of a developer to implement responsive images on your CMS. It’s a feature that can be implemented on any website.

Important Note:

The new responsive images created automatically by WordPress, are not fully optimized even if the original image was optimized.

This means you either have to use an image compression service to do this for you, or to optimize the images manually using imageOptim or any other software.

What I do on a monthly basis is to download all images for the month (found under /wp-content/uploads/[year][month]), on my PC, optimize them using imageOptim and upload them back to the server.

Use lazy loading – This is a technique where the browsers load the images in a page or post when they are needed i.e. as users scroll down the page and not all images at once (this is the default behavior).

By doing so, pages load faster, especially on mobile.

The good news is that there are a number of plugins that can help you do this without having to do any changes to your website.

Native Lazyload –  A WordPress plugin by Google that uses the native browser feature. All you have to do is install the plugin and activate it. There are no options to configure.

WP-ROCKET – A premium WordPress plugin that has built-in support for lazy loading images and videos. This is the plugin I’m using on my website as well.

2. Optimize the delivery of videos

Another element that can slow down your pages considerably, if not optimized correctly, is videos.

When embedding videos into your content, you should follow these best practices:

Upload videos to a streaming service – The best way to minimize the impact of videos on page loading speed is to upload them to a streaming service i.e. YouTube or Vimeo and then embed them on your website.

By doing so, your server is not responsible for streaming the video content but the content comes directly from the provider.

Disable video autoplay – Make sure that you don’t use autoplay.  Besides being a bad user experience it also slows down the loading of a page considerably.

Use lazy loading – The lazy loading technique can also be applied to videos. Videos will only be loaded from the external source, when they are in the user’s viewport and not when a page is loaded.

Replace video iframe with a preview image – This is another technique you can use. You show a preview image to users while waiting for a video to load. Wp-rocket has this feature built-in.

3. Enable caching

Caching is a mechanism that helps a lot with page speed and its a must for all websites.

In simple words, when you use caching, the server creates static HTML versions of your webpages and shows those to users instead of generating the pages from the beginning every time there is a request for a page.

This makes the process faster, fewer server resources are required and the user gets a better experience.

The caching mechanism is clever enough to understand when there is a change to a page or when not to cache a page, so the overall website experience is the same.

WP Rocket Caching Options
WP Rocket Caching Options

To enable caching on your WordPress website, you can use a caching plugin like wp-rocket or wp super cache.

These plugins will add all necessary caching rules to your .htacess file and even create a separate cache for mobile users and a cache for logged in users.

Configuration of the plugin is straightforward and no technical knowledge is required.

4. Minify CSS and JS

Minification is a process that removes all unnecessary characters from CSS and JS files (like comments and white spaces) and this makes those files smaller in size.

Minification reduces the size of CSS and JS Files

Minification does not change the functionality but it does reduce the file size and this means faster loading times.

For the non-technical persons, CSS and JS are files used by all kinds of websites and platforms. The CSS is responsible for the styling of a page and the JS for functionality.

There are three ways to enable minification on your website:

  1. Check if your CMS supports this option. Normally this is found under ‘Speed Optimization’ or advanced.
  2. If you’re on WordPress, check if this option is available in your theme settings.
  3. Use a minification plugin like wp-rocket or autoptimize.

5. Eliminate render-blocking scripts

When a page is loaded, the browser will try to load all the resources defined in the header and then continue with the rest of the page.

Header resources may include the Google Analytics script, Facebook pixel, Google Ads script and many other scripts needed by your website to function properly.

If any of these resources fail to load quickly this will delay the loading of a page.

What you can do to avoid this situation is two things:

  1. Try not to add any external resources or scripts (unless really necessary) to the website header.
  2. Move render-blocking scripts to the footer of the website. If this sounds too technical then you can use wp-rocket or the help of a developer to do this for you.

6. Use scripts asynchronously

Another trick that is very effective when doing page speed optimization is to ensure that all scripts are loaded asynchronously.

During page load, the browser will try to load any script that is found in the website’s HTML code (either in the header, body or footer), before proceeding with rendering a page.

This adds extra time to the page loading speed, especially when scripts are hosted on slow servers.

To solve this problem, you need to load scripts asynchronously. In simple words, this means instructing the browser to continue loading a page and not wait for the script to be fully loaded.

This is done through code by adding the command ‘asynchronous’ in your script’s code.

This is a task that can be done by a developer or through a premium plugin like wp-rocket.

7. Leverage browser caching

Browser caching is different than the ‘server caching’ discussed above. All modern browsers are using a caching mechanism to make pages load faster.

The way it works is simple. When a page is first loaded, browsers will save elements of the page like images, CSS files, JavaScripts on the user’s device.

The next time a user visits the particular page or any other page from the same website, the browser will use the locally saved resources (which is a much faster process), rather than requesting these from the server.

The result is improved pagespeed.

As a webmaster, your job is to give instructions to the browser, through your website’s .htaccess file as to how often and when they should refresh the local elements.

This is a highly technical task and the best way to deal with this is to use a plugin. Again, wp-rocket will automatically do this for you without having to add any code.

8. Use preloading and prefetching of resources

Preloading and prefetching of resources is a technique that can increase the performance of your website as a whole and improve the loading of your important pages.

With preloading and prefetching, you instruct the browser to load in the background resources or pages that you know that will be needed as the user browses a website.

Let me give you a couple of examples of how to take advantage of this:

Preloading of pages: Good caching plugins have a PRELOAD feature. When preload is enabled, the plugin creates caches copies of all the website pages so when a user is visiting a page, this is shown faster since the processing has already be done.

DNS prefetching: When a website is using external files (for example Google Fonts, or Font awesome icons), you can add them in the DNS prefetching section of your plugin and this will speed up their loading time considerably.

In wp-rocket, this is as simple as adding the URL you want to prefetch in the DNS Prefetch section.

prefetch DNS settings
Prefetch DNS Improves the loading speed of a website.

Pre-rendering specific pages: This is an advanced technique but highly effective and easy to implement.

You can use the prerender and prefetch commands to instruct the browser to background load the most important pages of your website that you expect users to visit.

For example, on my website, I added the line below in the header <HEAD></HEAD> which tells browsers to ‘prepare’ the loading of my Digital Marketing Course sales page, as soon as a user visits any page from my site.

<link rel="prerender prefetch" href="https://www.reliablesoft.net/products/courses/digital-marketing-course-bundle/">

The result is that the page loads instantly when users view the page either from the main menu or from any other internal link.

Important: Do not use this for more than one or two pages of your website, otherwise, it is possible to generate the opposite results.

9. Move to a faster host

If after you do the above changes, you still notice that your website is slow then it’s time to consider changing hosts.

Your hosting provider plays a big role in how fast your website will load.

Serious bloggers or online business owners should use a VPS to host their websites and not shared hosting.

The main difference between the two is that shared hosting is cheaper but your website is hosted on the same server with dozens of other websites sharing the same resources.

When you rent your own Virtual Private Server (VPS), your website is hosted on its own IP, on a virtual server that has dedicated resources.

This means that your website is more secure and any potential problems or flaws in other websites do not negatively impact your website’s performance. It’s more expensive than shared hosting but it certainly worth’s it.

To learn more, can read my previous post on how do hosting providers affect SEO.

10. Deactivate unnecessary plugins/add ons

The terminology plugins is used by WordPress. Other CMS use the name add-ons for any additional software installed on a website.

It’s a common practice to install plugins for testing purposes and then forget about them. As a first step, review all your active plugins and deactivate the ones that are not used.

Even if you don’t actively use a plugin, the plugin code/CSS is still loaded and this affects your website speed.

As a second step, go through the plugins you actually use and see if there are ways to do what the plugin does but without having the plugin.

For example, you may use a plugin to add AdSense ads to your web pages but with a few lines of code into your functions.php, you can have the same outcome without having to load the extra coding and logic added by a plugin.

Simple changes like that, although they may seem not important, they can help you gain a few seconds in loading time.

If you’re not a technical person, it is strongly recommended to hire a developer to review and update your add-ons and suggest ways to minimize their usage.

11. Consider using a CDN

A content delivery network or CDN is a service that helps to improve pagespeed by:

  • Using various servers to deliver the static elements of a website (images, CSS, JS)
  • Using servers that are closer to the physical location of the user.

For example, if you have users accessing your website from different countries, the users in the US will be served from US-based servers while the users in Germany from Germans based servers.

cdn
The image on the left – No CDN. The image on the right – With CDN.

To use a CDN, you need to have a subscription with a CDN provider like Cloudflare, StackPath and you also need to do some configuration on your domain so that any page requests are redirected to your CDN provider.

Many CDN providers offer additional features like protection from DDoS attacks, automatic SSL, image optimization, and minification of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Should you use a CDN? My recommendation is that you don’t have to use a CDN unless you have a LOT of images on your pages.

For normal websites, blogs, corporate websites that don’t heavily use images, it is enough to follow the other optimization guidelines.

If you have a high traffic eCommerce website with many images then a CDN may worth it, otherwise, you can still get great page loading speeds without it.

12. Optimize your DB

Behind the scenes, all CMS platforms use a database server and most of them are using MySQL, MariaDB or SQL Server. A slow database server will slow down your website.

WordPress is based on a MySQL Database. While you don’t need to know any other technical details, what you need to understand is that by adding/deleting content/posts to your website, the database gets bigger and at some point is good to do some maintenance work.

This involves things like:

  • Deleting unnecessary post revisions (every time you click ‘Save Draft’, a version of the post or page is kept to the DB).
  • Deleting spam comments.
  • Re-indexing the database tables (don’t worry if you don’t know what this is).
  • Removing unnecessary table
  • Optimizing tables

Performing these actions regularly will reduce the size of your DB and it will run smoother and faster.

Again, the best way to do this is through a plugin. I use wp-rocket but there are other alternatives like wp-optimize.

13. Use Google Page Speed Module

 If you are on a VPS, then an alternative to using a caching plugin is to use Google Page Speed Module. This is a piece of software developed by Google that is installed on your webserver and takes care of caching and optimizing your HTML and CSS without having to do any changes to your website.

I have tested this on a number of websites and it works well but the downside of this is that you need the help of your hosting provider to install the module of your web server and some technical knowledge to configure it correctly.

If you want to play with it and test it, you can read all about it here.

14. Upgrade your CMS software and plugins

It’s always a good practice to keep your CMS software and plugins/add-ons up-to-date.

All software providers are constantly trying to improve the security and performance of their software and to take advantage of this, you need to ensure that you’re using the latest versions.

Don’t forget to take a website backup before performing upgrades. Sometimes, new versions create issues and it’s always good to have an older version you can go back to.

15. Upgrade to the latest version of PHP

This is a highly technical task but one that can make a HUGE difference in your pagespeed, even without making any other changes to your website.

PHP is the programming language used by major CMS (including WordPress). Over the years, the developers behind PHP are trying to improve its performance and newer versions load much faster than older versions.

Check with your hosting provider the version of PHP you’re using and consult with a developer on what it takes to update your website to the latest version.

Have in mind that besides speed improvements, PHP versions have other differences as well and switching to a newer version without thoroughly testing your website may be catastrophic.

On the other hand, if you do the procedure correctly with the help of a developer, all your website code can be migrated correctly and you can take advantage of the speed improvements.

To give you an idea of the speed gains, have a look at the PHP benchmarks below.

PHP Speed Comparison
PHP Speed Comparison

How to accurately measure your page speed?

While so far we have talked about ways to improve your page loading speed, the only way to know if your changes are working positively or not is to use a couple of page speed tools and analyze the results.

Measuring your website speed before and after the changes will help you identify exactly where the problem is (or the areas you have improved).

The tools we’ll use for this task are:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights
  • Pingdom Website Speed Test

Google Page Speed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a free tool offered by Google. The tool analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster.

Go to PageSpeed Insights and type in your domain name or the URL of a particular page and click ANALYZE.

Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights

What you see is the speed performance of your website for both Mobile and Desktop as well as a number of suggestions from Google on how to improve your performance.

A few things to know about PageSpeed Insights reports:

A page score is a number calculated using Google lighthouse data. If you want to learn the technical details, you can read the formula here.

The higher the score you can get the better.

Don’t expect that you can get a 100% score, it’s very difficult for the average website to achieve this.

The page score is not directly related to Google rankings. In other words, it does not mean that pages with a higher score, will rank better than a page with a lower score.

As explained above, Google is using a different approach (by grouping websites into two major categories), when it comes to page speed and rankings.

Don’t be over-obsessed with the page score. What is more important is the actual time it takes for your pages to load in real-life scenarios and not your PageSpeed insights score.

Use PageSpeed score as a KPI to measure the effectiveness of your page improvement changes (before and after making a change).

Pingdom Website Speed Test

Pingdom PageSpeed Recommendations
Pingdom PageSpeed Recommendations

Pingdom Website Speed Test analyses a page on your website and gives you a number of useful metrics including:

  • How many seconds it takes for the page to load
  • The total size of your page (in MB)
  • The number of requests executed until a page is fully loaded
  • How long each page element took to load

What is nice about this tool is that you can take speed measurements and see how your website is performing in different geographical locations.

This is useful when you are located in a different country than your target audience.

A few things to know about Pingdom reports:

The most important metric is the LOAD TIME. This is the actual time in seconds your website loads from the specified location.

Look at the PAGE SIZE and try to keep it below 1.5MB. The bigger the page size the more time it takes for the page to load.

Look at the FILE REQUESTS section and find out which website elements take more time to load. Go through the list carefully and spot any scripts or CSS files that shouldn’t be loaded for the particular URL and get the help of a developer to remove them.

For example, if you’re using WooCommerce, you’ll notice that it loads a number of CSS and JS files on pages that are not needed.  Removing them from the pages that don’t actually use them, will make those pages faster. The same applies to a number of plugins.

Key Learnings

Page speed is important and something that you need to check on a regular basis. It’s not a one-time task. As your website grows both in content and traffic, you need to periodically check your website’s load speed (especially for your popular pages), and take actions where necessary to improve it.

Making use of a good caching plugin will help you solve a number of speed problems and if you also take care of your image sizes then your webpage loading speed will dramatically improve.

Keeping your CMS and all plugins up to date is also important since new versions are more likely to include speed improvements.

Finally, use the two tools mentioned above to take measurements from different geographical locations to ensure that the majority of your users can access your website fast with no unnecessary delays.

The post How to Increase Page Speed (Easy Guide) appeared first on reliablesoft.net.

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Subscription Fatigue

Subscription Management

I have active subscriptions with about a half-dozen different news & finance sites along with about a half dozen software tools, but sometimes using a VPN or web proxy across different web browsers makes logging in to all of them & clearing cookies for some paywall sites a real pain.

If you don’t subscribe to any outlets then subscribing to an aggregator like Apple News+ can make a lot of sense, but it is very easy to end up with dozens of forgotten subscriptions.

Winner-take-most Market Stratification

The news business is coming to resemble other tech-enabled businesses where a winner takes most. The New York Times stock, for instance, is trading at 15 year highs & they recently announced they are raising subscription prices:

The New York Times is raising the price of its digital subscription for the first time, from $15 every four weeks to $17 — from about $195 to $221 a year.

With a Trump re-election all but assured after the Russsia, Russia, Russia garbage, the party-line impeachment (less private equity plunderer Mitt Romney) & the ridiculous Iowa primary, many NYT readers will pledge their #NeverTrumpTwice dollars with the New York Times.

If you think politics looks ridiculous today, wait until you see some of the China-related ads in a half-year as the 2019 novel coronavirus spreads around the world.

Arresting a doctor who warned about the outbreak doesn’t have good optics, particularly after hundreds of other deaths piled up from it & when he later died from from the virus.

The optics keep getting worse.

How does a broad-based news site compete with the user generated Tweets in such a zone?

And any widely known individual journalist who builds a large audience might get disappeared.

Twitter recently surpassed $1 billion in quarterly revenues, but time spent on Twitter is time not spent on other news websites.

McClatchy filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Outside of a few core winners, the news business online has been so brutal that even Warren Buffett is now a seller. As the economics get uglier news sites get more extreme with ad placements, user data sales, and pushing subscriptions. Some of these aggressive monetization efforts make otherwise respectable news outlets look like part of a very downmarket subset of the web.

Users Fight Back

Users have thus adopted to blocking ads & are also starting to ramp up blocking paywall notifications.

Each additional layer of technological complexity is another cost center publishers have to fund, often through making the user experience of their sites worse, which in turn makes their own sites less differentiated & inferior to the copies they have left across the web (via AMP, via Facebook Instant Articles, syndication in Apple News or on various portal sites like MSN or Yahoo!).

A Web Browser For Every Season

Google Chrome is spyware, so I won’t recommend installing that.

Here Google’s official guide on how to remove the spyware.

The easiest & most basic solution which works across many sites using metered paywalls is to have multiple web browsers installed on your computer. Have a couple browsers which are used exclusively for reading news articles when they won’t show up in your main browser & set those web browsers to delete cookies on close. Or open the browsers in private mode and search for the URL of the page from Google to see if that allows access.

  • If you like Firefox there are other iterations from other players like Pale Moon, Comodo IceDragon or Waterfox using their core.
  • If you like Google Chrome then Chromium is the parallel version of it without the spyware baked in. The Chromium project is also the underlying source used to build about a dozen other web browsers including: Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, Cilqz, Blisk, Comodo Dragon, SRWare Iron, Yandex Browser & many others. Even Microsoft recently switched their Edge browser to being powered by the Chromium project. The browsers based on the Chromium store allow you to install extensions from the Chrome web store.
  • Some web browsers monetize users by setting affiliate links on the home screen and/or by selling the default search engine recommendation. You can change those once and they’ll typically stick with whatever settings you use.
  • For some browsers I use for regular day to day web use I set them up to continue session on restart, and I have a session manager plugin like this one for Firefox or this one for Chromium-based browsers. For browsers which are used exclusively for reading paywall blocked articles I set them up to clear cookies on restart.

Bypassing Paywalls

There are a couple solid web browser plugins built specifically for bypassing paywalls.

Academic Journals

Unpaywall is an open database of around 25,000,000 free scholarly articles. They provide extensions for Firefox and Chromium based web browsers on their website.

News Articles

There is also one for news publications called bypass paywalls.

  • Mozilla Firefox: To install the Firefox version go here.
  • Chrome-like web browsers: To install the Chrome version of the extension in Opera or Chromium or Microsoft Edge you can download the extension here, enter developer mode inside the extensions area of your web browser & install extension. To turn developer mode on, open up the drop down menu for the browser, click on extensions to go to the extension management area, and then slide the “Developer mode” button to the right so it is blue.

Regional Blocking

If you travel internationally some websites like YouTube or Twitter or news sites will have portions of their content restricted to only showing in some geographic regions. This can be especially true for new sports content and some music.

These can be bypassed by using a VPN service like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Witopia or IPVanish. Some VPN providers also sell pre-configured routers. If you buy a pre-configured router you can use an ethernet switch or wifi to switch back and forth between the regular router and the VPN router.

You can also buy web proxies & enter them into the Foxy Proxy web browser extension (Firefox or Chromium-compatible) with different browsers set to default to different country locations, making it easier to see what the search results show in different countries & cities quickly.

If you use a variety of web proxies you can configure some of them to work automatically in an open source rank tracking tool like Serposcope.

The Future of Journalism

I think the future of news is going to be a lot more sites like Ben Thompson’s Stratechery or Jessica Lessin’s TheInformation & far fewer broad/horizontal news organizations. Things are moving toward the 1,000 true fans or perhaps 100 true fans model:

This represents a move away from the traditional donation model—in which users pay to benefit the creator—to a value model, in which users are willing to pay more for something that benefits themselves. What was traditionally dubbed “self-help” now exists under the umbrella of “wellness.” People are willing to pay more for exclusive, ROI-positive services that are constructive in their lives, whether it’s related to health, finances, education, or work. In the offline world, people are accustomed to hiring experts across verticals

A friend of mine named Terry Godier launched a conversion-oriented email newsletter named Conversion Gold which has done quite well right out of the gate, leading him to launch IndieMailer, a community for paid newsletter creators.

The model which seems to be working well for those sorts of news sites is…

  • stick to a tight topic range
  • publish regularly at a somewhat decent frequency like daily or weekly, though have a strong preference to quality & originality over quantity
  • have a single author or a small core team which does most the writing and expand editorial hiring slowly
  • offer original insights & much more depth of coverage than you would typically find in the mainstream news
  • Rely on WordPress or a low-cost CMS & billing technology partner like Substack, Memberful, sell on a marketplace like Udemy, Podia or Teachable, or if they have a bit more technical chops they can install aMember on their own server. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I opened up a membership site about a decade back was hand rolling custom code for memberhsip management. At one point we shut down the membership site for a while in order to allow us to rip out all that custom code & replace it with aMember.
  • Accept user comments on pieces or integrate a user forum using something like Discord on a subdomain or a custom Slack channel. Highlight or feature the best comments. Update readers to new features via email.
  • Invest much more into obtaining unique data & sources to deliver new insights without spending aggressively to syndicate onto other platforms using graphical content layouts which would require significant design, maintenance & updating expenses
  • Heavily differentiate your perspective from other sources
  • maintain a low technological maintenance overhead
  • low cost monthly subscription with a solid discount for annual pre-payment
  • instead of using a metered paywall, set some content to require payment to read & periodically publish full-feature free content (perhaps weekly) to keep up awareness of the offering in the broader public to help offset churn.

Some also work across multiple formats with complimentary offerings. The Ringer has done well with podcasts & Stratechery also has the Exponent podcast.

There are a number of other successful online-only news subscription sites like TheAthletic & Bill Bishop’s Sinocism newsletter about China, but I haven’t subscribed to them yet. Many people support a wide range of projects on platforms like Patreon & sites like MasterClass with an all-you-can-eat subscription will also make paying for online content far more common.

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Squarespace SEO for People Who Don’t Know SEO

I can’t tell you how many people I know who have built or want to build their own site. These are regular people with basic computer skills, not web developer experts. One of the most user-friendly web builders available is Squarespace.

According to Builtwith.com, Squarespace hosts over 1.9 million live websites. Recently they’ve been making a big publicity push, even landing a Superbowl commercial. This past year Squarespace posted an extensive SEO user guide about their built-in functions and how to best utilize each one, making their platform great for SEO. However, this is assuming that the users know what SEO is and how to implement it.

I recognized this problem and decided to write this post. In it, I define the many Squarespace specific words and terms, what they mean as pertains to SEO, and how to best use them. For anyone looking to improve their Squarespace website visibility, improve user experience, or wanting a better understanding of SEO, this post should help.

Squarespace SEO Contents

I would like to note that I am not affiliated in any way with Squarespace. My goal is to help users better understand the platform and general SEO knowledge.

How to Use Keywords for Squarespace SEO

To help your website rank, use keywords in your site title, headings and descriptions. Below I go more in-depth about how to do this, specifically in Squarespace. If you’re already familiar with the importance of SEO keywords and usage, feel free to skip to the section on SEO titles.

Keywords & Ranking

One of the most important SEO tools are keywords, which are words and phrases that searchers enter into Google or other search engines. Keywords that you type into search bar are also called “search queries”. These words and phrases should be researched and planned out for the pages that you want to appear in search results. For a step-by-step keyword research strategy, check out Moz’s Keyword Research guide

Keywords are a big contributor to whether you show up in search results, or “ranking”. If you use accurate, well-researched keywords on your website, it greatly increases the chances of ranking for the keywords used.

Also, keep in mind, you should use different or unique keywords for each page of your website to avoid competition between your pages. For example, if your website sells custom T-shirts and you want to rank for the keyword “custom T-shirts”, the best practice is to choose one page (usually the homepage) for that primary keyword. Then assign other keywords to the other pages. If you have a page for women’s T-shirts, you could use the keyword “women’s custom T-shirts” for that page.

Keyword Research

When researching keywords, sometimes it’s difficult to know which ones will rank and how often a keyword is searched. The search volume (SV) is the frequency that a keyword is used in a query, typically calculated by the number of searches per month. The more often a keyword is used per month, the higher the SV and, usually, the more competitive the keyword.

A good place to start when researching keywords is typing in queries into the search bar to see what pops up. Using our custom T-shirt example, some suggested terms will appear when you start typing into the search bar. This is a good indication of whether searchers are using specific keywords.

Google suggests search terms when you type in keywords

Another tool to use is the related searches section at the bottom of a results page. When you type in “custom t shirts”, scroll to the bottom of the first page and you’ll see a list of other related terms. These are other keywords related to your primary keyword that you can consider using.

Related search terms appear at the bottom of the results page

If you’re still unsure whether to use a certain word for phrase, ask yourself two questions: 1) is this keyword relevant to my page content? and 2) would a searcher use this term if they want to find my website? Often times thinking like the searcher can help you decide which keywords to use.

For other free tools that you can use, check out these keyword research tools on ahrefs.com.

SEO Titles, Site Titles, Page Titles, Oh My!

In Squarespace, the “site title”, “SEO title” and “page title” have different functions and appear on-page, in browser tabs, and on the search results page. To understand the differences, we must first talk about “title tags”.

Title tags are an SEO term. They are HTML elements that indicate to search engines the title of a webpage. The searcher sees them as the blue text in search results. 

Title tags are the blue text in search results page.

Site Titles

In Squarespace, the “site title” is the name of your website, and appears at the top of your homepage. It also appears on the browser tab and search results page. The site title is your default title tag for your homepage.

Where titles appear on-page in your Squarespace website

It’s important to note that SEO does not differentiate between title tags by page type because they all function the same way. However, SS probably makes this distinction to make it more approachable for their users.

Let’s use an example. Our friends at bonjourbitchesblog.com use Squarespace to host their website, and they have agreed to let us analyze their basic SEO features. “Bonjour, bitches” is a pop culture, style and humor blog website. Their current site title reads “bonjour, bitches”, so their default site title comes up in search results as below.

Site titles that are not changed will show in search results like this

SEO Titles

You can add a separate “SEO title”, which as the name implies, is for SEO purposes. If you add an alternate title here, it shows up on the browser tab and in search results. In this case, the SEO title becomes the title tag for that page.

Why should you add an SEO title to your pages? This is where keywords come into play. Using well-research keywords in the title tag can 1) help the website show up in search results, and 2) increase likelihood of searchers clicking on the page. 

Using keywords in the SEO title signals the search engine what the website is about. We’ll do a quick keyword search for “bonjour, bitches” website to see what they could use as their primary keyword. When we type in “pop culture blog” into Google some potential keywords show in the search suggestions and related searches. From these, we can get a better sense of what searchers might use as search queries.

Suggested keywords for “pop culture blog”

“Pop culture blog” related search terms

SEO titles also help searchers understand what a webpage contains. If the site title remains unchanged, visitors who are unfamiliar with the “bonjour,bitches” brand won’t know what the website is about, which means they will less likely click on their link. But if we use keywords in the SEO title it will help searchers understand the website content. 

If we change the SEO title to “Pop Culture, Style & Humor Blog | bonjour bitches”, searchers will see the below in the results page. They will have a better sense of what to expect when they click on the link.

More descriptive site title helps users and search engines understand your website

Page Titles

In SEO, page titles and site titles (title tags) are synonymous. In Squarespace, page titles are the titles that show on each page of your website (not to be confused with “on-page titles” or more commonly known in SEO as “heading 1” or “header 1”, which we will discuss further below). 

On the Squarespace website, they explain that “some templates” will display page titles, and if you do not add an SEO title then the default page title appears in the browser tab and search results. As previously discussed, if you want different text to show on page versus search results, then you have to manually change it.

Heading Tags

We mentioned on-page titles earlier, which in SEO has a different name: “heading 1” or “header 1” (h1). SS also has a headings function that their users can customize on-page. They briefly explain heading tags and why it’s important for SEO, but their users also have to know to add this function. I would postulate that many SS users, especially ones with little SEO experience, don’t know they should do this, which is why this point is so important. Heading tags, especially h1 tags, are crucial for better visitor experience and help improve your website ranking. 

Let me explain a little bit about how h1 tags work. When you add a heading 1 (h1) on your webpage, the site visitor will see it as an on-page “title”, because it’s usually at the top of the page with the most prominent or bolded text. Search engines see a corresponding <h1> HTML code in the website’s source code, with the same h1 text that’s on-page. Essentially, both the visitor and search engine see the same h1 for that page, but in different formats. 

Keeping this in mind, it’s best practice to have a keyword-rich, unique h1 for each page of your website. If you have the same or similar h1 tags for multiple pages, the search engine will be confused about which page matches the visitor query best, which means your pages will be competing with each other. 

How to Add Heading 1 in Squarespace

To add h1 tags in Squarespace you will have to go into each page and change the formatting of the on-page text. Yes, this can be a lot of manual work, but keep in mind that you most likely will only do this once for each page, and every new page you add to your website.

An important thing to note is that many of Squarespace website templates have built-in heading tag features. This means that when you fill in on-page content like site titles and blog post titles, it will automatically generate h1 tags for you. However, not all templates do this, and SS provides a table of which template families are the exceptions.

Squarespace template table shows which have built-in heading tags

Using our example again, the “bonjour, bitches” website uses the “Skye” template. Unfortunately we can see that Skye is NOT one of the templates that automatically generates h1 tags. The site title on the homepage does not create an h1 tag, which means you have to manually add one to the page. 

Squarespace Skype template has no built-in h1 tags

bonjour bitches homepage has no h1 tag

For individual blog pages on the website, the Skye template will generate h2 tags from the on-page titles. This isn’t necessarily bad for SEO, but search engines deem <h1> more important than <h2>. Think of it this way: if the webpage were a book, the h1 is the book title and the h2 is a chapter title within that book. The search engine sees that h2 tag without any context, so it’s much harder to understand what the webpage is about.

The key takeaway here is this: if your Squarespace template does not have built-in h1 tags, then you should manually insert them on each page. Or, if you haven’t decided on a template yet, choose one that has built-in h1 tags to make your life easier.

SEO Site Descriptions and Page Descriptions

Squarespace uses the terms “SEO site description” and “SEO description” to talk about that short description you see in search results underneath the title tag. In SEO this is called a “meta description”. Meta descriptions are good for SEO because it affects the click-through-rate for your website, which indirectly affects how well you rank.

Meta description is what you see underneath title tags in search results

Click-through-rate (CTR) is a percentage of how often a link is clicked on when it appears in search results. Web pages that have a high CTR signal to search engines that the page is highly relevant to the search query, which means it will rank higher.

From a recent study, pages with meta descriptions get 5.8% more clicks than those without a description. So it’s important to have keyword-rich, highly relevant meta descriptions for pages that you want to rank and searchers to click on.

In Squarespace, both “SEO site description” and “SEO description” are the same as meta description. The distinguishing factor is, SEO site description represents your homepage, while the SEO description represents all other pages. SS probably differentiates between pages for better user comprehension, but in SEO, meta descriptions on all pages are treated the same.

Missing meta description in search result page

In Squarespace, you must manually add the SEO site descriptions and SEO descriptions, or that content will be missing. As above, meta descriptions affect CTR for your web page, so it’s best practice to add them for every page.

Manually enter SEO site description for your homepage. Image taken from Squarespace

Some templates in SS also have “page descriptions”, which appear as on-page text and will show up in search results as the meta description for that page. Not all templates have page descriptions, so check this table to see if yours does. 

Website Navigation: Building a Site Header

SS uses the term “header” and “site header” to describe the on-page navigation, which should not be confused with page headings (h1). This is where your site title, logo and website navigation will live, including links. In SEO, the main navigation should be clear, concise and intuitive. The more easily a visitor can navigate and find what they’re looking for, the better the overall experience and more likely they will return to your website. You can read more about website navigation basics here.

SquareSpace SEO Words to Know

For reference, I have created a table of “SquareSpace SEO” terms and their SEO industry equivalent (or close match). These are all the Squarespace terms we’ve covered in this post.

SquareSpace (SS) Term SEO Term Where it appears Meaning
Site title Title tag At the top corner of each page. It also appears in the browser tab and can appear in search results page This is the name of your website homepage or main page. It is also the search results title by default. This can be text, a logo or thumbnail image file
SEO title Title tag or Page title In the search results page and browser tabs (if the user adds it) This title replaces the site title when you want different text to show in search results. You can add this to all pages on your website.
Page title Title tag or Page title *some pages at the top of page For *some templates, this shows on individual pages and in search results if there’s no SEO title assigned
Heading tags Headings, Headers (h1, h2, etc.) On-page at the top of page (e.g., blog post title) Headings are the on-page titles that also show up in the page source code as <h1>, <h2>, etc. They help visitors and search engines understand the page content
SEO site description Meta Description

*homepage*

Search results page Short description that appears in search results that says what that page contains.

*in SS this is only for the homepage*

SEO description Meta Description *all pages* Search results page Short description that appears in search results that says what that page contains

*in SS this is for individual pages or collection pages (products, blog posts, etc)*

Page descriptions Meta Description

*on-page description*

On-page content and

search results page

On-page description on individual pages, this will also appear in search results if SEO description is not added

*in SS only some templates have this feature*

Header (Navigation) Navigation Bar

or

Main Navigation

On-page, usually at the top This helps website visitors find what they’re looking for on a website. It usually includes anchor text/links to other pages on your website

There are many other facets of SEO that aren’t covered here, but I hope this helps users better navigate Squarespace and improve their website visibility. For those who want to learn more about SEO best practices, I’ve listed some resources below to help you get started.

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What Readers Want During COVID-19: Content Ideas for Every Niche

Posted by amandamilligan

This is a stressful time to say the least. Everything is impacted by COVID-19 in some way, including our work.

Once we’ve taken time to acknowledge how lucky we are to work in digital, it’s time to assess if our current content strategy needs any adjusting based on current events.

Many marketers are finding themselves:

  • Wanting to write about something topical
  • Needing to add more content to their calendars
  • At a loss for how to contribute at a time like this

So, I spent hours using Ubersuggest, putting myself in the shoes of various Americans. I tested a variety of keywords to see which ones have exhibited a trend during the COVID-19 outbreak and might warrant some attention from content marketers.

The results below are for the term “Coronavirus,” so for the other keywords identified, I looked for a noticeable spike in the months of January, February, and March to make sure they matched up accordingly.

My findings reveal potential topic ideas for several primary industries. See if any provide inspiration for high-quality content you can create in the coming months.

    Travel

    I’ll start with one of the industries hardest hit by this pandemic: travel. This was a tough one, as more and more people are understandably opting for driving, walking, or biking to get around, and are no longer relying on air travel or public transportation as trips and work get cancelled. However, I identified a few key opportunities.

    Travel insurance

    While it had an increase in the summer months, interest in the topic of travel insurance has risen back up again. Perhaps those who have to travel want to make sure they’re covered if they get sick, or maybe those who canceled travel want to see what their insurance covers.

    In either case, people are looking for information about travel insurance and how it can help them.

    Train travel

    It seems that train travel falls into an ambiguous category that people are asking about. I’m not here to say whether it’s safe or not (as that is obviously not my area of expertise). As we’ve all heard, it’s best not to travel at all, but perhaps your brand can offer some clarity in this regard and offer alternatives.

    Virtual travel

    For everyone stuck at home but still grappling with wanderlust, how can they still explore from the couch? Virtual travel seems to be gaining popularity as more people find themselves stuck at home.

    Work and education

    In some cases, companies and schools have gone from in-person to virtual nearly overnight. It’s been a huge shakeup across the board, and relevant topics are trending accordingly.

    Homeschooling

    Many kids are home from school, and their parents are suddenly and unexpectedly in the position of teaching them. They’re sure to have a lot of questions! Note how the search level now is the same as the summer months, when kids are also home.

    Free online courses

    With all plans essentially cancelled as a result of “social distancing,” people are looking for ways to spend their time at home. If you offer online courses, consider amplifying them and explaining their value. If you don’t, consider whether it makes sense to create one.

    Working from home tips

    Executives and staff alike are looking for advice on how to improve productivity while working from home, perhaps for the first time. Consider creating content with suggestions on how to set up a home office or maintain a schedule while dealing with at-home distractions.

    How to stay focused

    Whether it’s because people are working or studying at home for the first time or because they’re anxious and distracted by the developing events, more and more people are struggling to stay focused. Can your brand offer anything by way of motivation or tools for focus and efficiency?

    Entertainment

    Everyone’s at home either trying to distract themselves from the stressful reality of the world or looking to cure their boredom. As a result, online entertainment is on the rise. Can you offer the entertainment itself, or maybe guides on how to choose the best entertainment?

    Free streaming

    We’re stuck with digital for now, and people are looking for new media to consume. What can your brand provide? Also trending: “cheap digital games” and “best multiplayer video games”.

    Learn to play piano online

    Some folks are using their newfound free time to work on hobbies and skills they haven’t had the chance to pursue in the past. Can your brand teach them anything?

    Best online shopping deals

    This is particularly interesting to me. Keyword rates for this term are as high as they were over the holidays. I’m wondering if people who still have disposable income will pass the time online shopping, while others who are more financially impacted will cut back, leaving things at a net equal?

    Finance

    Aside from the health and safety of the population, finance cuts most to the emotional core of this pandemic. Many people are laid off or can’t work, and financial worry is skyrocketing. What can you do to provide guidance or relief?

    Unemployment

    Many people are unexpectedly looking to file unemployment, and plenty of those people have no idea how to do it, how much money they’ll get, or how to get that information. Informative guides and tips could be hugely helpful in this area.

    Budgeting tips

    With layoffs and pay cuts, people are scrambling to find new ways to save money. Also trending with the same graph results: “How to invest money wisely” — most likely because of the fluctuating stock market. Can you provide insight?

    Relationships

    When tensions run high, it’s important to pay attention to all the relationships in your life, meaning several subtopics in this vertical can be of vital importance.

    At home date ideas

    Couples stuck inside are looking for ways to keep up their romantic lives. Does it make sense for your brand to provide dating or relationships tips at an unprecedented time like this?

    Reconnecting with friends

    Physically, we’re all practicing social distancing, but we shouldn’t be virtually disconnecting from the people in our lives. It looks like people are wondering if they should take advantage of this free time to reconnect with old friends. Can your brand offer advice on the topic, or possibly a forum for those connections to happen?

    How to make your parents understand how you feel

    There are a lot of jokes going around about Gen Zs and Millennials trying to convince their Boomer parents to stay inside. But the jokes are for a reason: Many people are having tough conversations for the first time with family that they aren’t entirely sure how to navigate. Could you provide some helpful tips to approach these conversations?

    Health and fitness

    Health is, unsurprisingly, a vital category right now. Rather than getting into some of the most obvious things (like hand washing, hand sanitizer, etc.), I’ll try to cover some other popular topics that might be useful.

    How to get health insurance

    Similar to “unemployment” above, this is probably a response to people losing their jobs who are now unsure how they can get health insurance. What other concerns might these people have that you can help with?

    Indoor workouts

    People might have to stay home, but they’re also trying to stay healthy. How can you assist them in this endeavor?

    Also trending: “how to start running”, indicating that solitary outdoor exercise is key, too.

    How to strengthen immune system

    People are concerned about their health and want to do whatever they can to protect themselves from COVID-19. However, only dive into this subject matter if your brand is a legitimate medical expert. False information can damage lives.

    Also trending: “healthy diet”.

    Journaling

    Don’t forget about mental health, which is also being affected by the pandemic. People are stressed, anxious, worried, and, well, scared. Does it make sense for your brand to provide guidance on how to emotionally or mentally approach this day and age?

    Also trending: “meditation”.

    Home and family

    In many cases, entire families are at home, every day, for the first time since the kids were old enough to be in school. That can lead to some interesting challenges.

    Natural cleaning products

    In an effort to keep the house clean, people may be looking for guidance on the best type of supplies to use. Could you make a list of the most effective products?

    Also trending: “organic cleaning products”.

    Family recipes

    Everyone’s at home for all their meals and trying to avoid restaurants, so they probably need more recipes in their arsenal. Maybe your employees have favorite family recipes you could share with your readers.

    Games to play with kids

    Parents are used to this over the summer, but not when it’s sprung on them for an indefinite period of time. How can your brand give them ideas and tools to entertain their kids while they’re home?

    Also trending: “family conversation starters”.

    Conclusion

    To round out this study, I want to show the results for “uplifting stories.”

    If you’re not responsible for delivering breaking news or important COVID-19 updates, look for opportunities to amplify joy, gratitude, hope, or any other positive emotion. People are looking for health and safety updates, but they’re looking for inspiration, too.

    Consider how any of these topics might apply to your brand, do some further exploring in the Moz Keyword Explorer, and focus on creating a content plan you feel confident in.

    Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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    Building a brand for your business

    At Yoast, we pride ourselves on our branding. I would go as far as saying that it has attributed a lot to our success. I also think that good and consistent branding needs to be talked about more, as it is one of the hallmarks of a great enterprise. Please let me explain why I think it’s important for a business to think about their branding and give some examples of what we did. Hopefully, it’ll inspire you to do better branding for your company!

    What is branding?

    First, let’s look at some definitions. The American Marketing Association on their site defines a brand as:

    A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

    Lexico defines branding as:

    The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.

    On the scientific side, definitions range widely too. David Aaker, called the “Father of Modern Branding” by marketing text book writer Philip Kotler, defines branding as:

    “Far more than a name and logo, it is an organization’s promise to a customer to deliver what a brand stands for…in terms of functional benefits but also emotional, self-expressive, and social benefits”

    David Aaker in Aaker on Branding

    So, branding is the whole package: the name, the images, the advertising, the story. Good branding associates your company and/or product with positive feelings. Some major brands even go as far as only promoting the feelings in their advertisements, because we all know what the product is. If you’re in that stage, you’ve reached true “brand recognition”. If you succeed in making people feel certain feelings because they’ve bought something from you, the way I feel when I drink a Diet Coke, for instance, you’ve hit the jackpot.

    How do you measure branding?

    As digital marketers, we tend to want to measure everything and we think we can measure everything equally well. I don’t think that’s the case for branding. You might have the budget to do large scale brand research, but only truly big brands usually have that kind of money. And when you’re doing that research, the bigger question is: what do you want to do with the outcome of that research?

    To go one step deeper, we probably need to define better what we’d be measuring if we can measure anything. I find this brand knowledge pyramid in this article by P. Chandon from INSEAD very useful:

    Brand knowledge pyramid which describes going from brand awareness, to strong, favorable & unique brand assocations to postitive & accessible brand evaluations, to intense & active brnad loyalty.

    So, if you see the above pyramid, brand awareness is a pre-requisite for everything else. If people don’t consider you when they’re making a purchase, everything else you do to “charge” your brand is useless. More people searching for you online, which you can see through, for instance, Google Trends, is a good measure of brand awareness. Note that it is always relative to your competition. Comparing searches for “Yoast” with searches for “Coca-Cola” is both non-sensical and mostly just self-flagellation. However, comparing searches for “Yoast SEO” with searches for “WordPress SEO” makes much more sense, and luckily, it shows that we won that battle 5 years ago.

    If you really want to measure the impact, I think the smartest thing to do for smaller businesses is just seeing whether more people search for your brand online.

    The brand “Yoast”

    Given our definitions above, the brand Yoast has two sides to it: the brand image and the “functional” aspects of the brand. The functional aspects are a result of the functionality of our product, the quality of our UX, the usefulness of our features. To be able to build a good brand, having at least one good product is a requirement. Of course, that product can be a news site, or information, or whatever you want it to be, but it has to be great. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that’s a given. The great product is there and exists.

    The brand name

    Some things get lost in history, and that’s kind of funny. Yoast is how you pronounce my first name (Joost) if you’d pronounce it in English. Basically, toast with a Y. These days, people at conferences who don’t know this, sometimes introduce me as “this is Juiced from Yoast”, which always cracks me up. What’s most important though is that Yoast is short, it’s easy to remember and it’s unique in our space.

    For a while, keyword domain names were all the rage in the SEO industry. If you want to include the most important keyword for your business, make sure you stick something on to it that makes it rememberable and unique. This will make it a lot easier for people to search specifically for you. Some examples of this are for instance SearchEngineLand and Search Engine Journal. While they both clearly have the keyword in their brand name, the addition does make it a lot easier to search for them. At the same time, they do have longer brand names because of that. If your company name is long, think of whether abbreviating it is a good idea. Some of the best brands in the world are abbreviations: KLM, IBM, H&M, AT&T. You might not even know the words behind some of those abbreviations!

    Building the brand image

    Mijke, our brand manager, was one of the very first people I hired when I started hiring people. Erwin, the illustrator behind all of our avatars and a lot of the other images you see on this site, followed soon after. From the very beginning, things like color schemes and logos were important. But, also our positioning on who we are in the world are things that we’ve deemed as very important.

    Even before he was a Yoast employee, Erwin drew my avatar. Paul Madden created my very first avatar as a doodle at a conference, and while very nice, Erwin improved upon it quite a bit. Later, when Yoast started growing, we asked Erwin to create an avatar for every new employee. We still endeavor to do this, but admittedly we’re running quite a bit behind at the moment.

    If you’re interested in our avatars, this infographic is quite interesting (click to enlarge as it’s rather big):

    Logos, but also: so much more

    In many ways, our avatars were more important at the beginning of Yoast than our logo was. Our avatars, with their recognizable style, immediately made clear that someone who responded somewhere was a Yoast employee. People remember our avatars while most people do not remember our older logo’s.

    Image of the old Yoast logo and the current Yoast logo.
    The old Yoast logo vs the current one

    You cannot just create a logo and then be done with it, you’ll have to give it some more thought, and depending on how big your company is, sometimes even a lot of thought.

    Our branding is in every post image we create. You won’t find a lot of stock photos on Yoast.com, we use custom made illustrations for every important aspect of our site. Illustrations that contain exactly what we want them to contain, and are examples for the world we want to live in. These illustrations also hang in our offices as decoration, and during the COVID-19 work from home episode, we allowed our employees to pick one and we sent them some of these illustrations to hang on their home walls. That’s when you know your branding does bring a sense of community, just as in the pyramid above.

    Branding in the search results

    One of the things that I’ve always been very keen on is doing proper branding in the search results. It’s really important that when someone is researching a topic and you rank for a lot of the terms in that topic, they see you rank. Even if they don’t click on the first result. This is why I’ve always said it’s very important to include your brand name in titles. This is another spot where a relatively short brand name will help you, as you’ve got just so much more space to add a meaningful title. Usually, it makes the most sense to add the brand name to the end of the title and make it easily distinguishable. This can be as simple as - Brand name, we chose to use • Yoast. I think it stands out just a bit more, but mostly because hardly anybody else uses it, so think about what works for you and pick something!

    Another opportunity for branding is the knowledge panel that might show up for your brand. Knowledge panels are a type of rich results in the search engines. They are a great asset to have. Be sure to optimize everything you can in that if you have one!

    Conclusion

    So, we’ve seen that branding is more than just having a logo. Branding needs to be consistent, as it is one of the hallmarks of a great enterprise. But, truly measuring and researching your brand is hard (and expensive). And, what exactly do you want to do with the outcome of that research? So, smaller businesses better just monitor searches for their brand to gauge if their branding efforts pay off. And, don’t forget: branding in the search results is something relatively simple, which can result in a lot of brand recognition. Which steps will you take to do better branding for your company?

    Read more: 5 tips to improve your branding »

    The post Building a brand for your business appeared first on Yoast.

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    Generating Local Content at Scale – Whiteboard Friday

    Posted by rjonesx.

    Building local pages in any amount can be a painful task. It’s hard to strike the right mix of on-topic content, expertise, and location, and the temptation to take shortcuts has always been tempered by the fact that good, unique content is almost impossible to scale.

    In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones shares his favorite white-hat technique using natural language generation to create local pages to your heart’s content.

    Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

    Video Transcription

    Hey, folks, this is Russ Jones here with Moz again to talk to you about important search engine optimization issues. Today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite techniques, something that I invented several years ago for a particular client and has just become more and more and more important over the years. 

    Using natural language generation to create hyper-local content

    I call this using natural language generation to create hyper-local content. Now I know that there’s a bunch of long words in there. Some of you are familiar with them, some of you are not. 

    So let me just kind of give you the scenario, which is probably one you’ve been familiar with at some point or another. Imagine you have a new client and that client has something like 18,000 locations across the United States.

    Then you’re told by Google you need to make unique content. Now, of course, it doesn’t have to be 18,000. Even 100 locations can be difficult, not just to create unique content but to create uniquely valuable content that has some sort of relevance to that particular location. 

    So what I want to do today is talk through one particular methodology that uses natural language generation in order to create these types of pages at scale.

    What is natural language generation?

    Now there might be a couple of questions that we need to just go ahead and get off of our plates at the beginning. So first, what is natural language generation? Well, natural language generation was actually originated for the purpose of generating weather warnings. You’ve actually probably seen this 100,000 times.

    Whenever there’s like a thunderstorm or let’s say high wind warning or something, you’ve seen on the bottom of a television, if you’re older like me, or you’ve gotten one on your cellphone and it says the National Weather Service has issued some sort of warning about some sort of weather alert that’s dangerous and you need to take cover.

    Well, the language that you see there is generated by a machine. It takes into account all of the data that they’ve arrived at regarding the weather, and then they put it into sentences that humans automatically understand. It’s sort of like Mad Libs, but a lot more technical in the sense that what comes out of it, instead of being funny or silly, is actually really useful information.

    That’s our goal here. We want to use natural language generation to produce local pages for a business that has information that is very useful. 

    Isn’t that black hat?

    Now the question we almost always get or I at least almost always get is: Is this black hat? One of the things that we’re not supposed to do is just auto-generate content.

    So I’m going to take a moment towards the end to discuss exactly how we differentiate this type of content creation from just the standard, Mad Libs-style, plugging in different city words into content generation and what we’re doing here. What we’re doing here is providing uniquely valuable content to our customers, and because of that it passes the test of being quality content.

    Let’s look at an example

    So let’s do this. Let’s talk about probably what I believe to be the easiest methodology, and I call this the Google Trends method. 

    1. Choose items to compare

    So let’s step back for a second and talk about this business that has 18,000 locations. Now what do we know about this business? Well, businesses have a couple of things that are in common regardless of what industry they’re in.

    They either have like products or services, and those products and services might have styles or flavors or toppings, just all sorts of things that you can compare about the different items and services that they offer. Therein lies our opportunity to produce unique content across almost any region in the United States.

    The tool we’re going to use to accomplish that is Google Trends. So the first step that you’re going to do is you’re going to take this client, and in this case I’m going to just say it’s a pizza chain, for example, and we’re going to identify the items that we might want to compare. In this case, I would probably choose toppings for example.

    So we would be interested in pepperoni and sausage and anchovies and God forbid pineapple, just all sorts of different types of toppings that might differ from region to region, from city to city, and from location to location in terms of demand. So then what we’ll do is we’ll go straight to Google Trends.

    The best part about Google Trends is that they’re not just providing information at a national level. You can narrow it down to city level, state level, or even in some cases to ZIP Code level, and because of this it allows us to collect hyper-local information about this particular category of services or products.

    So, for example, this is actually a comparison of the demand for pepperoni versus mushroom versus sausage toppings in Seattle right now. So most people, when people are Googling for pizza, would be searching for pepperoni.

    2. Collect data by location

    So what you would do is you would take all of the different locations and you would collect this type of information about them. So you would know that, for example, here there is probably about 2.5 times more interest in pepperoni than there is in sausage pizza. Well, that’s not going to be the same in every city and in every state. In fact, if you choose a lot of different toppings, you’ll find all sorts of things, not just the comparison of how much people order them or want them, but perhaps how things have changed over time.

    

    For example, perhaps pepperoni has become less popular. If you were to look in certain cities, that probably is the case as vegetarian and veganism has increased. Well, the cool thing about natural language generation is that we can automatically extract out those kinds of unique relationships and then use that as data to inform the content that we end up putting on the pages on our site.

    So, for example, let’s say we took Seattle. The system would automatically be able to identify these different types of relationships. Let’s say we know that pepperoni is the most popular. It might also be able to identify that let’s say anchovies have gone out of fashion on pizzas. Almost nobody wants them anymore.

    Something of that sort. But what’s happening is we’re slowly but surely coming up with these trends and data points that are interesting and useful for people who are about to order pizza. For example, if you’re going to throw a party for 50 people and you don’t know what they want, you can either do what everybody does pretty much, which is let’s say one-third pepperoni, one-third plain, and one-third veggie, which is kind of the standard if you’re like throwing a birthday party or something.

    But if you landed on the Pizza Hut page or the Domino’s page and it told you that in the city where you live people actually really like this particular topping, then you might actually make a better decision about what you’re going to order. So we’re actually providing useful information. 

    3. Generate text

    So this is where we’re talking about generating the text from the trends and the data that we’ve grabbed from all of the locales.

    Find local trends

    Now the first step, of course, is just looking at local trends. But local trends aren’t the only place we can look. We can go beyond that. For example, we can compare it to other locations. So it might be just as interesting that in Seattle people really like mushroom as a topping or something of that sort.

    Compare to other locations

    But it would also be really interesting to see if the toppings that are preferred, for example, in Chicago, where Chicago style pizza rules, versus New York are different. That would be something that would be interesting and could be automatically drawn out by natural language generation. Then finally, another thing that people tend to miss in trying to implement this solution is they think that they have to compare everything at once.

    Choose subset of items

    That’s not the way you would do it. What you would do is you would choose the most interesting insights in each situation. Now we could get technical about how that might be accomplished. For example, we might say, okay, we can look at trends. Well, if all of the trends are flat, then we’re probably not going to choose that information. But we see that the relationship between one topping and another topping in this city is exceptionally different compared to other cities, well, that might be what gets selected.

    4. Human review

    Now here’s where the question comes in about white hat versus black hat. So we’ve got this local page, and now we’ve generated all of this textual content about what people want on a pizza in that particular town or city. We need to make sure that this content is actually quality. That’s where the final step comes in, which is just human review.

    In my opinion, auto-generated content, as long as it is useful and valuable and has gone through the hands of a human editor who has identified that that’s true, is every bit as good as if that human editor had just looked up that same data point and wrote the same sentences.

    So I think in this case, especially when we’re talking about providing data to such a diverse set of locales across the country, that it makes sense to take advantage of technology in a way that allows us to generate content and also allows us to serve the user the best possible and the most relevant content that we can.

    So I hope that you will take this, spend some time looking up natural language generation, and ultimately be able to build much better local pages than you ever have before. Thanks.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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