SEO Articles

E-commerce: What to do when you can’t make deliveries

E-commerce: What to do when you can’t make deliveries

Covid-19 is impacting businesses across the world and a lot of industries are taking a hit. E-commerce sites are seeing a particular problem where warehouses and delivery centres are closing and deliveries can no longer be made. 

If that’s a problem facing you and your business at the moment, read on for guidance on how to handle your e-commerce site when you can no longer make deliveries. 

How to communicate Covid-19 updates

Clear communication with customers is always essential. Customers will now be expecting to find Covid-19 announcements or words of reassurance on e-commerce sites. We recommend that communication is specific, in this case, to Covid-19. Here are some options:

Top of page banners 

This banner should provide clear details about any delivery delays or cancellations. We recommend having this banner on every page. If that’s not possible, include it on the homepage and the basket/checkout pages. Link out to the relevant policy or FAQ page.

Here’s an example from Target:

Pop ups

Similar to banners, pop ups should have clear information detailing the change in deliveries. Pop ups can be more intrusive than a top of page banner, so we’d recommend including one on the homepage and the basket/checkout pages. Keep messaging detailed and optimistic.

Here’s an example from M&S:

Update meta descriptions

Use your site’s meta description to let existing and potential customers know how Covid-19 is impacting deliveries. This will appear within the SERP, so include information on free deliveries, delivery cancellations or if it’s “business as usual”.

See this example from ASOS:

Implement Covid-19 specific structured data

Google is now supporting Covid-19 specific structured data, which displays clear updates within the SERP.  Some examples include:

Quarantine guidelines
Travel restrictions
Announcement of an event transitioning from offline to online, or cancellation
Announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions

See Google’s guide on Covid-19 special announcement structured data.

Update your FAQ page

Your FAQ page should be updated to reflect any changes to your service. To get an idea of the kind of Covid-19 specific questions people are asking, look at:

Ahrefs for keyword research

Search for Covid-19 related queries (e.g. “covid and international deliveries” or “is coronavirus impacting delivery times”)
Use Ahref’s site search functionality to research competitors and identify if they rank for questions you don’t rank for

Site search data (Google Analytics)

If you have site search tracking enabled, look at the queries being typed into your internal search functionality.

Competitors

Are your competitors including Covid-19 specific FAQs? If so, is this something you can also use?

Industry knowledge

You’re an expert in your industry. What questions would you expect customers to be asking?

How to keep your site functionable 

A website helps users fulfil their needs. Although you may be facing delivery difficulties, you can support your customers in other ways – e.g. allowing them to browse, creating shopping baskets or wishlists.  Keeping your site live is essential and now is the opportunity to prepare for a post Covid-19 recovery. Here is what to focus:

Ensure search engines know that your site is still live and deserves to rank

 Maintaining rankings will be crucial in weathering this storm. Health checks you can make include:

Are there lots of redirects or 404 pages?
Are rank worthy pages (e.g. homepage, category pages) being indexed? 
Are non rank worthy pages (e.g. privacy policy page, duplicate pages) being indexed?
Is the XML sitemap up-to-date?

Find an extensive guide to tech audits here and information on common tech issues of e-commerce sites here.

Keep category and product pages live and updated

Category pages are often essential to rankability, people are often looking for a category rather than a specific product. 

Ensure category and product pages are optimised and include relevant keywords in the meta title and H1

Titles should be no longer than 60 characters 
Ensure there is only one H1 on a page

Ensure categories pages are well linked to from the homepage

Here’s a guide on creating and optimising new category pages and how to write an incredible title tag.

Introduce shopping baskets and wish lists

Allow customers to create wish lists or build up their shopping basket without expiry. Remember, we’re thinking about how to make future sales easy for customers that may be browsing now. 

Example from ASOS:

How to collect and use customer data

Now is a great time to understand your customers and the journey they take across your site. As mentioned earlier, customers will still be looking for products. Here are some ways to gather and optimise that data:

Ensure your analytics tracking is correctly set up and accurate

If sales are down, this is also a good time to explore the customer journey and map out any areas where the journey can be optimised. For example, are you finding customers are landing on product pages instead of category pages and fail to make a purchase?

Read more on how to conduct a Google Analytics audit.

Encourage customers to subscribe to be notified when delivery is available

As well as data collection, this offers the customer an extra service which they might not have previously had, helping customer relationships and therefore, retention. Any data collected through subscription can be used for retargeting during this period and post Covid-19.

How to write engaging content

So your sales have dropped and you can no longer make deliveries, how else can you engage the customer?  Write some great content! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Write top of funnel content 

Top of funnel content can capture potential customers and lead them down the path to purchasing. This type of content is worth investing in now, as it’ll pay off in the future. Some examples include:

Evergreen seasonal content – this content will be relevant every year and can be easily recycled in the future.
Timely content around Covid-19. We are seeing sites writing content around working from home, wellbeing and things to do whilst isolating. This content is highly relevant and relatable during this period.
What are your competitors writing about? Use Ahrefs to discover related queries and content ideas to your industry. Protip: find which keywords your competitors rank for that you don’t using Ahref’s Content GAP functionality.

Check out this guide to writing content for organic traffic.

Example: Lush.com (UK)

Lush can no longer make deliveries. They have communicated clearly to customers that deliveries can’t be made, kept category and product pages live and are instead showcasing related content. The screenshots below are taken from their homepage. 

To communicate the lack of deliveries to customers, Lush have provided a banner and large announcement above the fold on the homepage. This communication is clear and links out to a more detailed article.

Instead of displaying products on the homepage, Lush are now showcasing relevant content such as, a guide to looking after your hands and recommendations on “ways to cope” during Covid-19.

The top nav allows customers to easily contact Lush, browse for products and access their basket. Although orders can’t be made, Lush does encourage customers to signup to create wishlists instead.

Final thoughts

Although the world is experiencing a period of uncertainty and disruption, take the time now to prepare your site and business for a post-Covid world. Investing time into ensuring your site is healthy, that  content is being written and that customers feel supported will pay off. Now is the time to pay more attention to customer support, retention and brand reputation in preparation for the future.

Share any of your e-commerce tips and tricks with us!

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Yoast SEO 14.8: Related links block in Premium, a new Schema tab and Arabic keyphrase recognition

Yoast SEO 14.8: Related links block in Premium, a new Schema tab and Arabic keyphrase recognition

Get ready for a brand new version of Yoast SEO! The 14.8 release is so full of remarkable free and premium features we’re having a hard time mentioning them all in this short introduction. So, to make everyone’s life easier, let’s start this post with a list of new features.

In Yoast SEO 14.8, you’ll find:

A super easy Related links block in Yoast SEO PremiumA brand new schema tab in the Yoast SEO meta boxArabic keyphrase recognition: the first of more right-to-left languages!An improved readability analysis for Portuguese & Indonesian

Easily add related links with a block

We can’t stress the importance of site structure for SEO enough. That’s one of the reasons why Yoast SEO Premium 14.7 came with a completely revised internal linking tool. Today, we’ll add a new tool to your internal linking toolkit! In addition to the subpages and siblings block for the WordPress block editor, Premium now gives you access to a Related links block for your posts and pages.

This is how it works: If you have Yoast SEO premium, you’ll see internal linking suggestions on the right-hand side of the post editor. Since Yoast SEO 14.7, you’ll find 5 suggestions for links, including posts, pages, tags, or categories. You can select which ones you’d like to include in your post. Now, with the Related links block, it became even easier to add these links! If you’d wish to include them all, for instance as a list of suggested readings below your post, just use the Yoast Related links block.

You’ll find the Related links block by clicking on the plus sign in the WordPress Block editor and searching for Yoast. Of course, you can customize which links will be in the block, as you know your audience best. Let’s see how it works here:

Get Yoast SEO Premium ▸Only $89 USD (ex VAT)

A Schema settings tab: tell Google more about your post or page

Adding Schema to your website helps Google understand what it’s about. This, in turn, helps Google serve the best result to their users. If you have Yoast SEO installed, it already provides Google with the right Schema on your posts and pages, as well as a full structured data graph of your site. This graph shows Google how content on your site relates to each other. In most cases, this is all you need.

In some cases though, you might want some more granular control to further specify with schema what a page is about. By default, Yoast SEO describes all your Pages by using WebPage schema and your Posts by Article schema. But perhaps you’d like to tell Google one of your pages is your Contact page. You can now easily do this in the new Schema tab that you’ll find in the Yoast SEO meta box.

Want to change the Schema settings of a post? Just select the type of page or article in the dropdown:

The Schema tab of the Yoast SEO meta box

Why use the Schema tab?

Hi, Rich Snippet here. Your guide when it comes to Schema, structured data and everything related.

Using Schema can get you those rich results in Google. And that’s kind of awesome, because they will help you stand out. Just like me. So make sure to use this Schema tab where and when you can!

In this article on changing Schema settings you’ll find a list of page and post types you can change it to. It also explains how to change the default setting of a post type in Yoast SEO’s search appearance settings. That’s not something for the faint of heart though, so please read the article before tinkering with these settings.

Want to see our new Schema tab in action? In this video we’ll show you what it looks like:

Arabic keyphrase recognition

Do you write content in Arabic? Then we have some great news for you! Yoast SEO is now able to better analyze right-to-left languages. This is the first step of a proper SEO analysis for these languages. We proudly announce that Arabic is the first right-to-left language we now also offer keyphrase recognition for.

As of the 14.8 release, Yoast SEO recognizes Arabic sentences and words and it even filters out the function words. This means our plugin can properly check whether you’ve used your Arabic focus keyphrase in, for instance, your introduction, slug, and headings. These, what we call, keyphrase-based checks, help you use your focus keyphrase in the right places. This, in turn, will help Google understand what topics you’re writing about and match it with people’s search terms. In fact, this is one of the all-time basics of SEO.

So, now, you can use these checks to optimize your content in Arabic with Yoast SEO! And this is just the start. Be prepared for the addition of more right-to-left languages in Yoast SEO releases soon.

Interested in how we improved the analysis of right-to-left languages? Our linguist Manuel explains all about splitting RTL texts into sentences here.

Improved readability for Portuguese & Indonesian

In Yoast SEO 14.6, Yoast SEO Premium came with Portuguese and Indonesian (Bahasa) word form recognition. Today, we’re expanding the free features for these two languages to provide you with better feedback on the readability of your copy in Portuguese and Indonesian. To give an example of one of these checks, the analysis will calculate whether you’re using passive voice too often in your copy. This is great news for your readers and search engines, as they both love text that is easy to read.

With the addition of these checks, you can now get an even better readability analysis of Portuguese – de nada! – and Indonesian – sama-sama! – with Yoast SEO. Want to know if we offer a readability analysis or word form recognition in your language? Check the list of features per language here.

Yoast SEO 14.8: Something for everyone

Yoast SEO 14.8 comes with enhancements on many areas of SEO: from Schema to keyphrase optimization, and readability to internal linking. We hope there’s something in it that makes you happy too. Please let us know in the comments!

Get Yoast SEO Premium ▸Only $89 USD (ex VAT)

For all fixes and enhancements, feel free to check out the Yoast SEO changelog.

The post Yoast SEO 14.8: Related links block in Premium, a new Schema tab and Arabic keyphrase recognition appeared first on Yoast.

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Video: Pam Auugst on SEO automation & XML sitemaps

I’ve got to say, this was a weird video edit because it was recorded the last day I was in my office before the COVID-19 lockdown in New York — and now, I’m publishing it after almost six months of working from home. It is very surreal, but let’s get back to SEO because that is what Pam Auugst of  Pam Ann Marketing and I spoke about that day.

We first talked about SEO automation and how often automating some of the more mundane and receptive SEO tasks can be a huge win-win for both your agency and your clients. Pam has been able to automate some of her daily SEO tasks using Python and spreadsheets; she said doing this is both science and art. It is good advice, SEOs should look to automate reporting, billing and other administrative tasks when possible. But, not all SEO can be automated.

We also spoke about XML sitemaps and the fact that they should not just be published once and forgotten about. She said the sitemaps need to be managed over time, over content and features changes, and then audited. Don’t just push all your URLs to Google in your sitemap files, make sure the content you push is valuable and make sure the content is actually there. CMS platforms can often automate this, but sometimes it can lead to a lot of URLs being submitted to Google you probably do not want to submit.

You can learn more about Pam @pamannmarketing and here is the video:

I started this vlog series recently, and if you want to sign up to be interviewed, you can fill out this form on Search Engine Roundtable. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here. I am currently looking to do socially distant, outside interviews in the NY/NJ tri-state area.

The post Video: Pam Auugst on SEO automation & XML sitemaps appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Site structure: the ultimate guide

Site structure: the ultimate guide

Your site needs to have a defined structure, because without it, it’ll just be a random collection of pages and blog posts. Your users need this structure to navigate on your site, to click from one page to another. Google also uses the structure of your site to determine what content is important and what is less relevant. This guide tells you everything you need to know about site structure.

Table of contents

Why is your site structure important?Importance for usabilityImportance for SEOHow to set up the structure of your siteIdeal site structureYour homepageNavigationTaxonomiesContextual internal linkingContextual linking for blogsContextual linking opportunities for online shopsLanding pagesSearch intentCornerstone content pagesProduct landing pagesMaintaining your site structureEvaluate your menuRethink your taxonomyClean up outdated contentAvoid keyword cannibalizationInternal linking with Yoast SEOSite structure: in short

Why is your site structure important?

Structuring your website is crucial for both its usability and findability. Many sites lack a sound structure to guide visitors to the information they’re looking for. Having a clear site structure also leads to a better understanding of your site by Google, so it’s incredibly important for your SEO. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Importance for usability

The structure of your website has a significant impact on the experience for your visitors (UX). If visitors can’t find the products and information they’re looking for, it’s not very likely they’ll become regular visitors or customers. In other words, you should help them navigate your site. A good site structure will help with this.

Navigating should be easy. You need to categorize and link your posts and products so they are easy to find. New visitors should be able to instantly grasp what you’re writing about or selling.

Importance for SEO

A solid site structure vastly improves your chances of ranking in search engines. There are three main reasons for this:

a. It helps Google ‘understand’ your site

The way you structure your site will give Google vital clues about where to find the most valuable content on your site. It helps search engines understand what your site mainly is about or what you’re selling. A decent site structure also enables search engines to find and index content quickly. A good structure should, therefore, lead to a higher ranking in Google.

b. It prevents you from competing with yourself

On your site, you might have blog posts that are quite similar. If, for example, you write a lot about SEO, you could have multiple blog posts about site structure, each covering a different aspect. Consequently, Google won’t be able to tell which of these pages is the most important, so you’ll be competing with your own content for a high ranking in Google. You should let Google know which page you think is most important. You need a good internal linking and taxonomy structure to do this, so all those pages can work for you, instead of against you.

c. It deals with changes on your website

The products you sell in your shop likely evolve over time. So does the content you’re writing. You probably add new product lines as old stock sells out. Or you write new articles that make old ones redundant. You don’t want Google to show outdated products or deleted blog posts, so you need to deal with these kinds of changes in the structure of your site.

Are you struggling with setting up your site’s structure? Don’t know what the best strategy is to link from one post to another? Check out our Site structure training, part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription. Before you know it, you’ll be able to improve your rankings by creating the best structure for your site!

How to set up the structure of your site

So, how do you construct a solid site structure? First, we’ll look at an ideal site structure; then we’ll explain how to achieve this for your own site.

Ideal site structure

Let’s start by looking at an ideal situation: if you’re starting from scratch, how should you organize your site? We think a well-organized website looks like a pyramid with a number of levels:

1. Homepage

2. Categories (or sections)

3. Subcategories (only for larger sites)

4. Individual pages and posts

The homepage should be all the way at the top. Then, you have some sections or category pages beneath it. You should be able to file all of your content under one of these categories. If your site is larger, you can divide these sections or categories into subcategories as well. Beneath your categories or subcategories are your individual pages and posts.

An ideal site structure looks like a pyramid. On top you’ll find the homepage, right below that the main sections or categories, possibly followed by subcategories. On the ground you’ll find all the individual posts and pages.

Your homepage

On top of the pyramid is the homepage. Your homepage should act as a navigation hub for your visitors. This means, amongst others, that you should link to your most important pages from your homepage. By doing this:

Your visitors are more likely to end up on the pages you want them to end up on;You show Google that these pages are important.

Further down this article, we’ll help you determine which of your pages are essential to your business.

Beware not to try to link to too many pages from your homepage, because that will cause clutter. And a cluttered homepage doesn’t guide your visitors anywhere. If you want to optimize your homepage further, there are a lot of other things you can do. Read Michiel’s article on homepage SEO to find out what.

Navigation

In addition to having a well-structured homepage, it’s also important to create a clear navigation path on your site. Your site-wide navigation consists of two main elements: the menu and the breadcrumbs.

The menu

First, let’s take a look at the menu. The website menu is the most common aid for navigation on your website and you want to make the best possible use of it. Visitors use your menu to find things on your website. It helps them understand the structure of your website. That’s why the main categories on your site should all have a place in the menu on your homepage.

Furthermore, it’s not always necessary to put everything in just one menu. If you have a big site with lots of categories, this may clutter your website and makes your main menu a poor reflection of the rest of your site. Where it makes sense, it’s perfectly fine to create a second menu.

For instance, eBay has one menu at the top of the page – also called the top bar menu – and in addition to that, a main menu. This top bar menu links to important pages that aren’t categories in the shop, like pages that have to do with the visitor’s personal account on the site. The main menu reflects the most important product categories on eBay.

Finally, just like on your homepage, you shouldn’t add too many links to your menu. If you do, they will become less valuable, both for your users and for search engines.

Read all about optimizing your website’s menu here or take our site structure training that includes lots of examples!

Breadcrumb trail

You can make your site’s structure even clearer by adding breadcrumbs to your pages. Breadcrumbs are clickable links that are usually visible at the top of a page or post. Breadcrumbs reflect the structure of your site. They help visitors determine where they are on your site. They improve both the user experience as well as the SEO of your site, as you can read in Edwin’s guide on breadcrumbs.

If you use a WordPress site, you can use one of the many breadcrumb plugins that are available. You can also use our Yoast SEO plugin, as we’ve implemented a breadcrumb functionality in our plugin as well.

Taxonomies

WordPress uses so-called taxonomies to group content (other CMSs often have similar systems). The word ‘taxonomy’ is basically a fancy term for a group of things – website pages, in this case – that have something in common. This is convenient because people looking for more information on the same topic will be able to find similar articles more easily. You can group content in different ways. The default taxonomies in WordPress are categories and tags.

Categories

You should divide the blog posts or products on your site into a number of categories. If these categories grow too big, you should divide these categories into subcategories, to clear things up again. For example, if you have a clothing store and you sell shoes, you can decide to divide this category into a number of subcategories: ‘boots’, ‘heels’, and ‘flats’. All of these subcategories contain products, in this case shoes, of that specific type.

Adding this hierarchy and categorizing to your pages helps your user and Google make sense of every single page you write. When implementing your category structure, make sure to add your main categories to the main menu of your site.

Read on: Using category and tag pages for SEO »

Tags

Your site’s structure will also benefit from adding tags. The difference between a category and a tag mostly has to do with structure. Categories are hierarchical: you can have subcategories and even sub-subcategories. Tags, however, don’t have that hierarchy. Tags just say: “Hey, this article or product has a certain property that might be interesting for a visitor.” Think of it like this: categories are the table of contents of your website, and tags are the index. A tag for the online clothing store mentioned above could be a brand, for instance, Timberlands.

Keep on reading: What is the difference between tags and categories? »

Try not to create too many tags. If you add a new unique tag to every post or article, you’re not structuring anything. Make sure each tag is used at least twice, and that your tags group articles that genuinely belong together.

Some WordPress themes display tags with each post, but some don’t. Make sure your tags are available to your visitors somewhere, preferably at the bottom of your article or in the sidebar. Google isn’t the only one that likes tags: they are useful for your visitors too, who may want to read more about the same topic.

Read more: Tagging post properly for users and SEO »

Contextual internal linking

Site structure is all about grouping and linking the content on your site. Until now, we mostly discussed so-called classifying links: links on your homepage, in your navigation and taxonomies. Contextual links, on the other hand, are internal links within the copy on your pages that refer to other pages within your site. For a link to be contextual, the page you link to should be relevant for someone reading the current page. If you look at the previous paragraph, for instance, we link to a post about tagging, so people can learn more about it if they’re interested.

Your most important pages are probably often very relevant to mention on several pages across your site, so you’ll link to them most often. Just remember that not only the page you’re linking to is relevant, the context of the link is important as well.

Google uses the context of your links to gather information about the page you’re linking to. It always used the anchor text (or link text) to understand what the page you’re linking to is about. But the anchor text isn’t the only thing Google looks at. Nowadays, it also considers the content around the link to gather extra information. Google is becoming better at recognizing related words and concepts. Adding links from a meaningful context allows Google to properly value and rank your pages. Yoast SEO Premium makes internal linking a breeze by automatically suggesting relevant content from your site to link to.

Contextual linking for blogs

For blogs you should write extensively on the topics you’d like to rank for. You should write some main articles (your cornerstone articles) and write various posts about subtopics of that topic. Then link from these related posts to your cornerstone articles, and from the cornerstone articles back to related posts. In this way, you’ll make sure that your most important pages have both the most links and the most relevant links.

The following metaphor might help you understand this principle: Imagine you’re looking at a map of a state or country. You’ll probably see many small towns and some bigger cities. All towns and cities will be interconnected somehow. You’ll notice that small towns often have roads leading to the big cities. Those cities are your cornerstones, receiving the most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. There are some roads (links) leading to these smaller towns, but not as much as to the big cities.

Keep reading: Internal linking why and how »

Contextual linking opportunities for online shops

Contextual internal linking works differently on an online shop with very few to no pages that are exclusively meant to inform. You don’t explore a specific topic on your product pages: you’re selling a product. Therefore, on product pages, you mostly want to keep people on a page and convince them to buy the product. Consequently, contextual linking is far less prominent in this context. You generally shouldn’t add contextual links to your product descriptions, because it could lead to people clicking away from the page.

There are just a couple of meaningful ways of adding contextual links to your product pages:

link from a product bundle page to the individual productsa ‘related items’ or ‘compare with similar items’ sectiona ‘customers also bought’ sectiona ‘product bundles’ or ‘frequently bought together’ section.

Learn all about setting up a great (internal linking) structure for your online store with our Site structure training, part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription. We’ve included lots of examples from real websites!

Landing pages

Landing pages are the pages you want your audience to find when they search for specific keywords you’ve optimized for. For instance, we want people who search for ‘free SEO training’ to end up on the page about our free training called ‘SEO for beginners’. You need to approach the content of your most important landing pages differently than your other, regular pages.

Here, we’ll discuss two types of landing pages: cornerstone pages and product landing pages. They’re both pages you’d like people to land on from the search engines, but they require quite a different approach. But first, we’ll shortly go into search intent, because you have to know what your audience is really looking for.

Search intent

When setting up your site structure, you need to think about search intent. It’s about what you think people are looking for when they enter a query into a search engine. What do people want to find? And: what do they expect to find?

Take the time to think about different possibilities in search intent, as you might want to cater to different types on your site. Are people just looking for an answer to a question or a definition? Are they comparing products before purchase? Or, are they intending to buy something right away? This is often reflected in the type of query they make. You can also use the search results pages to create intent-based content.

When you have idea of the search intent it’s essential to make sure your landing page fits the search intent of your audience. Pages can answer more than one search intent, but you need a clear view for at least your most important pages.

Read all about search intent and why it’s important for SEO.

Cornerstone content pages

Cornerstone articles are the most important informational articles on your website. Their focus is to provide the best and most complete information on a particular topic, their main goal is not to sell products.

Because of this focus, we usually think of blogs when talking about cornerstone content. Of course, that doesn’t mean it can only be a blog post. All different kinds of websites have cornerstone articles! Rule of thumb: if an article brings everything you know about a broad topic together, it’s a cornerstone content article.

In this article, Marieke explains what cornerstone content is and how to create it.

Product landing pages

Product landing pages significantly differ from cornerstone articles. The latter are lengthy, where product landing pages shouldn’t be that long. Rather than complete articles, they should be focused. These pages only need to show what your visitors need to know to be convinced. They don’t need to hold all the information.

You obviously want to rank with these pages though, and that means they need content. Enough content for Google to understand what the page is about and what keyword it should rank for. Where cornerstone articles could be made up by thousands of words, a couple of hundreds could be enough for product landing pages. The main focus of the content should be on your products.

Michiel listed all the essentials of your product landing page here.

Maintaining your site structure

Structuring or restructuring your content doesn’t always have high priority within everything you have to do. Especially when you blog a lot, or add other content regularly, it might feel like a chore. Although it isn’t always fun, you have to do it, or your website might become a mess. To prevent that from happening, you need to not only fix your site structure but keep an eye on it while adding new content. Site structure should definitely be part of your long-term SEO strategy.

Evaluate your menu

When your business goal or website changes, your menu also needs to change. When you start thinking about restructuring your site, planning things visually will pay off. Make a flowchart.

Start with your new menu one or two levels deep and see if you can fit in more of the pages you have created over the years. You’ll find that some pages are still valid, but don’t seem relevant for your menu anymore. No problem, just be sure to link to them on related pages and in your sitemaps, so that Google and your visitors can still find these pages. The flowchart will also show you any gaps in the site structure.

Read on: Optimizing your website menu »

Rethink your taxonomy

Creating an overview of your categories, subcategories and products or posts will also help you to rethink your site’s taxonomy. This could be a simple spreadsheet, but you can use more visual tools like LucidChart or MindNode too.

Do your product categories and subcategories still provide a logical overview of your product range or your posts and pages? Perhaps you’ve noticed somewhere down the line that one category has been far more successful than others, or maybe you wrote a lot of blog posts on one subject and very few on others.

If one category grows much larger than others, your site’s pyramid could be thrown off balance. Think about splitting this category into different categories. But, if some product lines end up much smaller than others, you might want to merge them. Don’t forget to redirect the ones you delete.

In the unlikely event you have built your HTML sitemap manually, update that sitemap after changing your site structure. In the far more likely event you have an XML sitemapre-submit it to Google Search Console.

Keep on reading: The structure of a growing blog »

Clean up outdated content

Some outdated articles you might be able to update and republish, to make them relevant again. If an article is outdated but no one reads it anyway, you might opt for getting rid of it altogether. This could clean up your site nicely.

What you should know in that case, is that you should never just delete a page or article. If Google cannot find the page it serves your user a 404 error page. Both the search engine and your visitor will see this error message saying the page doesn’t exist, and that is a bad experience and thus, bad for your SEO.

Be smart about this! You need to properly redirect the URL of the page you’re deleting, so your user (and Google) lands on a different page that is relevant to them. That could even improve your SEO!

Avoid keyword cannibalization

Your website is about a specific topic, which could be quite broad or rather specific. While adding content, you should be aware of keyword cannibalization. If you’re optimizing your articles for keywords that are all too similar, you’ll be devouring your own chances of ranking in Google. If you optimize different articles for similar key terms, you’ll be competing with yourself, and it’ll make both pages rank lower.

If you suffer from keyword cannibilization you’ll have some work to do. In short, you should research the performance of your content, and probably merge and redirect some of it.  When merging posts, we recommend creating a new draft by cloning one of the original posts with Yoast Duplicate Post plugin. This gives you the freedom to work on your merged post without making these changes to a live post. Read the guide by Joost to learn more about keyword cannibalization and how to fix it.

Internal linking with Yoast SEO

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this advice? Yoast SEO has some handy tools to make internal linking so much easier.

Yoast SEO’s text link counter visualizes your links so you can optimize them. It shows the internal links in a post and the internal links to a post. You can use this tool to enhance your site structure, by improving the links between your related posts. Make sure your cornerstones get the most (relevant) links!

Yoast SEO Premium helps you with your internal linking as well. Our internal linking suggestions tool will show you which articles are related to the one you’re writing, so you can easily link to them: just by dragging the link into your editor!

The internal linking suggestions even include other content types

Moreover, our tool allows you to indicate which articles you consider to be cornerstone content on your site. This way those articles will be shown on top of the internal linking suggestions. You’ll never forget to link to them again.

Read more: How to use Yoast SEO for your cornerstone content strategy »

Site structure: in short

As we have seen, there are several reasons why site structure is important. Good site structure helps both your visitors and Google navigate your site. It makes it easier to implement changes and prevents competing with your own content. So use the tips and pointers in this guide to check and improve your site structure. That way, you’ll stay on top of things and keep your website from growing out of control!

Want to get improve your site structure, but don’t know where to start? Get our Site structure training! It’s part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription. We’ll guide you through the process step by step. 

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

The post Site structure: the ultimate guide appeared first on Yoast.

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Managing Algorithmic Volatility

Managing Algorithmic Volatility

Upon the recently announced Google update I’ve seen some people Tweet things like

if you are afraid of algorithm updates, you must be a crappy SEO
if you are technically perfect in your SEO, updates will only help you

I read those sorts of lines and cringe.

Here’s why…

Fragility

Different businesses, business models, and business structures have varying degrees of fragility.

If your business is almost entirely based on serving clients then no matter what you do there is going to be a diverse range of outcomes for clients on any major update.

Let’s say 40% of your clients are utterly unaffected by an update & of those who saw any noticeable impact there was a 2:1 ratio in your favor, with twice as many clients improving as falling.

Is that a good update? Does that work well for you?

If you do nothing other than client services as your entire business model, then that update will likely suck for you even though the net client impact was positive.

Why?

Many businesses are hurting after the Covid-19 crisis. Entire categories have been gutted & many people are looking for any reason possible to pull back on budget. Some of the clients who won big on the update might end up cutting their SEO budget figuring they had already won big and that problem was already sorted.

Some of the clients that fell hard are also likely to either cut their budget or call endlessly asking for updates and stressing the hell out of your team.

Capacity Utilization Impacts Profit Margins

Your capacity utilization depends on how high you can keep your steady state load relative to what your load looks like at peaks. When there are big updates management or founders can decide to work double shifts and do other things to temporarily deal with increased loads at the peak, but that can still be stressful as hell & eat away at your mental and physical health as sleep and exercise are curtailed while diet gets worse. The stress can be immense if clients want results almost immediately & the next big algorithm update which reflects your current work may not happen for another quarter year.

How many clients want to be told that their investments went sour but the problem was they needed to double their investment while cashflow is tight and wait a season or two while holding on to hope?

Category-based Fragility

Businesses which appear to be diversified often are not.

Everything in hospitality was clipped by Covid-19.
40% of small businesses across the United States have stopped making rent payments.
When restaurants massively close that’s going to hit Yelp’s business hard.
Auto sales are off sharply.

Likewise there can be other commonalities in sites which get hit during an update. Not only could it include business category, but it could also be business size, promotional strategies, etc.

Sustained profits either come from brand strength, creative differentiation, or systemization. Many prospective clients do not have the budget to build a strong brand nor the willingness to create something that is truly differentiated. That leaves systemization. Systemization can leave footprints which act as statistical outliers that can be easily neutralized.

Sharp changes can happen at any point in time.

For years Google was funding absolute garbage like Mahalo autogenerated spam and eHow with each month being a new record. It is very hard to say “we are doing it wrong” or “we need to change everything” when it works month after month after month.

Then an update happens and poof.

Was eHow decent back in the first Internet bubble? Sure. But it lost money.
Was it decent after it got bought out for a song and had the paywall dropped in favor of using the new Google AdSense program? Sure.
Was it decent the day Demand Media acquired it? Sure.
Was it decent on the day of the Demand Media IPO? Almost certainly not. But there was a lag between that day and getting penalized.
Panda Trivia

The first Panda update missed eHow because journalists were so outraged by the narrative associated with the pump-n-dump IPO. They feared their jobs going away and being displaced by that low level garbage, particularly as the market cap of Demand Media eclipsed the New York Times.

Journalist coverage of the pump-n-dump IPO added credence to it from an algorithmic perspective. By constantly writing hate about eHow they made eHow look like a popular brand, generating algorithmic signals that carried the site until Google created an extension which allowed journalists and other webmasters to vote against the site they had been voting for through all their outrage coverage.

Algorithms & the Very Visible Hand

And all algorithmic channels like organic search, the Facebook news feed, or Amazon’s product pages go through large shifts across time. If they don’t, they get gamed, repetitive, and lose relevance as consumer tastes change and upstarts like Tiktok emerge.

Consolidation by the Attention Merchants

Frequent product updates, cloning of upstarts, or outright acquisitions are required to maintain control of distribution:

“The startups of the Rebellion benefited tremendously from 2009 to 2012. But from 2013 on, the spoils of smartphone growth went to an entirely different group: the Empire. … A network effect to engage your users, AND preferred distribution channels to grow, AND the best resources to build products? Oh my! It’s no wonder why the Empire has captured so much smartphone value and created a dark time for the Rebellion. … Now startups are fighting for only 5% of the top spots as the Top Free Apps list is dominated by incumbents. Facebook (4 apps), Google (6 apps), and Amazon (4 apps) EACH have as many apps in the Top 100 list as all the new startups combined.”

Apple & Amazon

Emojis are popular, so those features got copied, those apps got blocked & then apps using the official emojis also got blocked from distribution. The same thing happens with products on Amazon.com in terms of getting undercut by a house brand which was funded by using the vendor’s sales data. Re-buy your brand or else.

Facebook

Before the Facebook IPO some thought buying Zynga shares was a backdoor way to invest into Facebook because gaming was such a large part of the ecosystem. That turned out to be a dumb thesis and horrible trade. At times other things trended including quizzes, videos, live videos, news, self hosted Instant Articles, etc.

Over time the general trend was edge rank of professional publishers fell as a greater share of inventory went to content from friends & advertisers. The metrics associated with the ads often overstated their contribution to sales due to bogus math and selection bias.

Internet-first publishers like CollegeHumor struggled to keep up with the changes & influencers waiting for a Facebook deal had to monetize using third parties:

“I did 1.8 billion views last year,” [Ryan Hamilton] said. “I made no money from Facebook. Not even a dollar.” … “While waiting for Facebook to invite them into a revenue-sharing program, some influencers struck deals with viral publishers such as Diply and LittleThings, which paid the creators to share links on their pages. Those publishers paid top influencers around $500 per link, often with multiple links being posted per day, according to a person who reached such deals.”

YouTube

YouTube had a Panda-like update back in 2012 to favor watch time over raw view counts. They also adjust the ranking algorithms on breaking news topics to favor large & trusted channels over conspiracy theorist content, alternative health advice, hate speech & ridiculous memes like the Tide pod challenge.

All unproven channels need to start somewhat open to gain usage, feedback & marketshare. Once they become real businesses they clamp down. Some of the clamp down can be editorial, forced by regulators, or simply anticompetitive monpolistic abuse.

Kid videos were a huge area on YouTube (perhaps still are) but that area got cleaned up after autogenerated junk videos were covered & the FTC clipped YouTube for delivering targeted ads on channels which primarily catered to children.

Dominant channels can enforce tying & bundling to wipe out competitors:

“Google’s response to the threat from AppNexus was that of a classic monopolist. They announced that YouTube would no longer allow third-party advertising technology. This was a devastating move for AppNexus and other independent ad technology companies. YouTube was (and is) the largest ad-supported video publisher, with more than 50% market share in most major markets. … Over the next few months, Google’s ad technology team went to each of our clients and told them that, regardless of how much they liked working with AppNexus, they would have to also use Google’s ad technology products to continue buying YouTube. This is the definition of bundling, and we had no recourse. Even WPP, our largest customer and largest investors, had no choice but to start using Google’s technology. AppNexus growth slowed, and we were forced to lay off 100 employees in 2016.”

Everyone Else

Every moderately large platform like eBay, Etsy, Zillow, TripAdvisor or the above sorts of companies runs into these sorts of issues with changing distribution & how they charge for distribution.

Building Anti-fragility Into Your Business Model

Growing as fast as you can until the economy craters or an algorithm clips you almost guarantees a hard fall along with an inability to deal with it.

Markets ebb and flow. And that would be true even if the above algorithmic platforms did not make large, sudden shifts.

Build Optionality Into Your Business Model

If your business primarily relies on publishing your own websites or you have a mix of a few clients and your own sites then you have a bit more optionality to your approach in dealing with updates.

Even if you only have one site and your business goes to crap maybe you at least temporarily take on a few more consulting clients or do other gig work to make ends meet.

Focus on What is Working

If you have a number of websites you can pour more resources into whatever sites reacted positively to the update while (at least temporarily) ignoring any site that was burned to a crisp.

Ignore the Dead Projects

The holding cost of many websites is close to zero unless they use proprietary and complex content management systems. Waiting out a penalty until you run out of obvious improvements on your winning sites is not a bad strategy. Plus, if you think the burned site is going to be perpetually burned to a crisp (alternative health anyone?) then you could sell links off it or generate other alternative revenue streams not directly reliant on search rankings.

Build a Cushion

If you have cash savings maybe you guy out and buy some websites or domain names from other people who are scared of the volatility or got clipped for issues you think you could easily fix.

When the tide goes out debt leverage limits your optionality. Savings gives you optionality. Having slack in your schedule also gives you optionality.

The person with a lot of experience & savings would love to see highly volatile search markets because those will wash out some of the competition, curtail investments from existing players, and make other potential competitors more hesitant to enter the market.

Categories: internet

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How do You Develop a Content Style Guide?

How do You Develop a Content Style Guide?

Do you have multiple writers writing for your website? Or are you a writer yourself working on different projects like website copy, emails, newsletters and more?

The way you write matters when it comes to expressing yourself before your audience. That is why you need to know precisely what governs your style of writing.

For every brand, consistency in style, grammar, tone, and punctuation are essential tools to make your content enjoyable and engaging. All this can only be achieved if you have a content style guide – and stick with it.

Content style guide creates uniformity besides allowing your content to entice the reader. So, how do you develop a compelling style guide? Read on to find the right answers.

The Importance of Style Guide

A content style guide describes a set of organized rules that you need to follow for your copywriting.

Such rules will help you when creating website content like social media posts, blog articles, email content, eBooks, webpages and any form of online writing.  

i)It Promotes Consistency

At this age of information technology, people are getting smarter each day. This is to say that if your brand is not consistent, they will easily notice. 

For instance, if you create compelling and engaging content on one platform but submit substandard content on another, they may not recognize your brand. Therefore, you need to maintain consistency to allow your audience to easily identify your brand.

When you think about Apple’s copywriting, what comes to your mind?

It’s usually attention-grabbing, descriptive, but also sounds crisp and professional.

It’s only possible for me to describe their copywriting style because it has been consistently not only for all of its marketing efforts, but also throughout the years.

Stay consistent, and your clients will remember you better.

ii)It Gives Priority to Your Audience

The idea behind content style guides is to enable you to communicate more effectively with your audiences. What you include in your style should meet their needs and expectations in every content you create. 

Let’s look at Apple again as an example, they are a tech company and offers products with a premium price tag. Now, how can they wow the crowd and make them overlook the hefty price tag?

Copywriting wise, Apple always make sure to dash out the specs of their products in an easily consumable way, and turn it into a wow factor.

They know those willing to drop big bucks are expecting the get the best. And through their copywriting, they make sure to promise you the best.

This is the reason why your content must be relevant to their behaviors, interests, and activities. In other words, your style guide should give priority to your audiences’ needs in a more impactful way.

iii) It Encourages Good Practice

The first step in creating the best content for your target audience is to carry out a thorough research on the subject matter. 

A good content style guide is created with its purpose in mind.

Your brand, business goals, audience, and close competitors will influence your content style guide as well. This means that you should strive to get more insight into what you are trying to present to your audience. 

Apply what kind of knowledge you have acquired such as discovery sessions, stakeholder interviews, and content audits. All these give you a good starting point.

iv) It Creates Good Content

The content style guide is all about how you communicate with others. This is important, especially when creating a brand for a particular audience.

Despite the style guide being a practical resource, it is also a commitment to creating relevant content. So punctuation, formatting, and grammar should determine the quality of your work

Luckily, the content style guide helps you to keep all this in check. Other elements such as trends, personality and brand values come in later to make your content even better.

Steps to Creating a Style Guide

Here are the steps to follow:

i)Express Your Personality in Three Words

Look out for three important words that describe your personality. Also, make sure to add an explanation of what the three words mean. 

For example, a single word can have several meanings to different people. By providing the meaning of each word, you will help your audience to understand your message better.

Are you young, ambitious, and friendly? Or are you traditional, precise, and details oriented? 

With this firmly in mind, it can greatly change your brand’s image through copywriting.

ii) Find Out What Makes You Stand Out in the Crowd

In this step, you should only focus on relevant information about what gives you an edge over others.

Don’t dwell so much on controversial content in a bid to capture the attention of your audience. Just go straight to the point and state clearly what makes you or your brand unique from your competitors.

For example, TOMS is a footwear brand, but they are also known for their eco-friendly and charitable approach. Because they made sure that everyone knows about that.

Be like TOMS.

TOMS’ copywriting and marketing as a whole focuses heavily on their environmental-friendly, and charity activities. Which is what sets them apart from so many other footwear brands. 

iii)Pay Attention to Your Audience

You need to know what your audience could be thinking when reading your content. This helps you create something that will stand out to them more, and thus closer to their heart.

They might be used to their usual brands but still looking for better options. Take advantage of their situation and pay attention to what they want, can you offer a better price? Or perfects round the clock customer support? Highlight those to turn a visitor into a customer.

Also useful, is to find out as much as you can about how they communicate. 

Take advantage of their situation and pay attention to what they want. Find out as much as you can about how they communicate. 

Ask yourself if their form of communication is formal, casual or humorous. Once you have this information at the back of your mind, you will find it easy to create content that your new audience will like.

iv) Don’t Force Engagement with Your Audience

The next step in developing good content is engaging your audience. Let your tone be their guiding principle when reading through your work. 

But don’t let them feel that you are forcing engagement with them. Just relax and let everything else fall in place.

Things To Consider When Creating Your Content Style Guide

i) Choose Your External Style Book

Several established manuals for external style books do exist out there. Each of them can give you a solid foundation when creating your content. No wonder most companies use one of the following external style books to creating high-quality content:

The Chicago ManualAP StylebookYahoo Style Guide

ii) Grammar and Punctuation

After picking your external stylebook, the next task is to use the set the rules on grammar and punctuation.

With punctuation and grammar, you must take into account any common issues arising while creating content, capitalizing names, titles and many more. Also, you must know when and when not to apply abbreviations, Oxford comma and certain terms you are likely to use so often. 

Or when it’s ok to not follow the grammar and punctuation rules from the style guide.

There exist a whole debate over should there be a comma after the word “and”. This is something you should make clear when creating a content style guide.

iii)Style and Tone

Consider the following situations:

Whether to use passive or active voice.Writing in first, second or third person.How to handle legal language and jargon.

These details can really make or break the consistency of copywriting styles across your different platforms and copies, so do not leave them out.

iv) Your audience’s persona

Is your potential audience professionals? Are they baby boomers? Or are they stay-at-home moms? You should make it known in the content style guide who you are writing for, so you can write to them better.

Creating a detailed audience persona can help your copywriters to craft out more precise copies that can strike a chord with your readers. Building that much needed connection.

Developing personas of your potential customers and choosing which of them to address for each piece of content, can greatly help in creating higher quality content. (image source)

v) Types of Content

Content is available in all types but only a few are right for your audience.

In this regard, your content style guide must take outline and enlist only the most relevant content that can best showcase your brand while highly reachable for your targeted audience.

Focus more on decision making while keeping your target audience in mind. Examples of content that you may use include videos, audiobooks, podcasts, images, infographic and blog articles.

There are a lot of different types of content, choose the ones most suited for your business and can reach to the most potential clients. (image source)

vi)Formatting

Do you want first-line indent? How long should a paragraph be? Are long-winded sentences ok?

You should set some rules on formating to make sure all contents’ formating are uninformed and you do not spend precious time deleting spaces, or combining paragraphs.

Final Thought

When it comes to creating content, you need to adopt a guideline that governs your style.

The content style guide should be created meticulously, with all details and situations considered, in order to guide you throughout your work, helping you to come up with engaging and compelling content for your target audience.

I hope this piece has been helpful to help you in creating a content style guide for you and your copywriters so you can pump out more content that is consistent in quality, add points to your branding effort, and helps you connect better with your clients.

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SEO Checklist: Optimizing Your Website For Higher Ranking

A must-have checklist for every SEO practitioner.
Discover more than 10 proven ways to get ranked on search engines
Get higher rank and more traffic to your website with these methods
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