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Ask Yoast: Keep or delete and redirect event pages?

If you write a lot about events on your site, odds are that the content on your site changes rapidly. Whether it’s food events, concerts, antique fairs, you name it, it’s a lot of work to maintain a site that lists all the fun events in a certain category and area. With new events being added regularly, and past events becoming less important, you should definitely give your site structure some extra thought.

For example: what do you do with past events? You don’t want a load of irrelevant pages bloating your site’s structure, but some of these pages might still attract visitors to your site. And how do you properly delete these pages from your site? Let’s go into expired event pages and SEO in this week’s Ask Yoast!

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Carsten Lentfer emailed us quite a complicated dilemma on the subject, which I distilled to this main question:

My website is a calendar for food events. If I delete and redirect event pages once an event has passed, I will end up with loads of redirects, mainly to the homepage versus a relatively small number of ‘live’ pages. How does that affect my SEO? Is it better to keep the old pages?

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

Keep event pages or delete and redirect them?

“Well, if that event is a yearly thing, then it’s definitely better to keep the event page around and just update it for the next year. If that event is a one time only thing, then I would delete it or keep it around, if there’s a lot of content on it that people might want to look at later.

It depends a bit on how thin these pages are. If they are very thin, I would delete them. If they’re rich then I would just keep them around and keep them as a sort of history.

But for the yearly events, it’s a very good idea to actually have a page that returns every year because then you’ll start ranking for each of those events better and better as time goes by. Good luck.”

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Here’s the Information You’re Probably Giving Social Media Networks, and How They Protect It

People have questions about the security of our digital data.

That ranges broadly, whether it’s passwords, online banking information, or what we do on social media. And more than ever, people are asking, “How is my information protected?”

In order to understand that, it seems, it’s important to first take a closer look at the information users might provide to social networks in the first place. That’s been a topic of growing interest in the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica revelation, and new details, questions, and announcements that have since emerged.

To help make sense of it — and not just when it comes to Facebook, but also how these things work on networks like Twitter and LinkedIn — Varonis created an infographic to break down the type of information users typically provide to these social media platforms, and what each one had already been doing to keep data secure.

Some things have changed in a very short period of time. Facebook, for instance, has announced a slew of new protections and policies over the past month, and further modifications are anticipated from a number of platforms as we count down the days leading up to the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May.

But it’s still interesting to have a look at just how much information we share, and what different networks have been doing in the way of safety until now. 

Social-media-comparison


What is Public Relations? The Definition of PR in 100 Words or Less

There’s an old saying: “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.”

Public relations isn’t an easy profession to define. In fact, in 2012, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) accepted a few thousand submissions before finally agreeing on a definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

After reading PRSA’s definition, you might still have questions about PR: how can an organization take its beneficial relationship to the public and turn it into good press? Are you really “praying” for something, like the old saying goes, if you’re using a strategic process to get results?

Hang with me — let’s break it down.

The positive, storytelling side of PR

A PR professional works with an organization, company, government, or individual to cultivate a story that portrays that client’s reputation, idea, product, position, or accomplishment in a positive light. So, in a sense, you can think of PR professionals as storytellers. Unlike advertisers, who tell stories through paid methods, PR professionals tell their stories through unpaid or earned media.

These unpaid or earned avenues include traditional media, social media, or speaking engagements — which are especially effective opportunities for reaching the general public. Keep in mind that a PR professional isn’t just trying to reach a paying customer … she’s trying to reach everyone.

Hopefully, this is a digestible definition of PR. If you’re still unsure of how PR looks in the real world, let’s explore some examples.

Let’s say you work for a small interior design company, and your business just won an award: “Best Interior Design Company in Chicago.” A PR specialist might ask a reporter to write a story about this accomplishment to spread the news to the public.

Along with building a credible reputation for your interior design business, the PR professional is also helping the public receive relevant information about this accolade. If I’m a consumer looking for an interior designer, this announcement could help me, too.

Public relations extends to government, too. PR professionals can execute political campaigns or explain a government’s new policy to the public. In this case, you can see how PR professionals work to maintain a healthy and productive relationship between their client (the government), and the general public, who have a right to hear about new policies.

The negative, damage-control side of PR

PR isn’t just used for positive storytelling. It’s also used to mitigate any damage that could weaken a client’s reputation.

In the early 1980s, numerous bottles of Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol product were laced with cyanide by an unknown person, killing seven people. This led to widespread panic and could have resulted in the end of Tylenol products.

Johnson & Johnson took aggressive PR measures to mitigate the damage: first, the company pulled all of its Tylenol products off the shelves and issued a national statement warning consumers not to purchase or use Tylenol. Then, Johnson & Johnson created a new tamper-resistant seal, and instructed 2,000 sales personnel to deliver presentations to the medical community to reintroduce these new, safer Tylenol bottles.

This effective PR strategy saved Johnson & Johnson’s reputation, as well as their product — in fact, Tylenol shares climbed back up to 24 percent just six weeks after the cyanide crisis.

In the case of Johnson & Johnson, a simple advertising campaign wouldn’t have worked. Instead, PR was necessary: PR professionals were able to spread a story that portrayed Johnson & Johnson as a company that puts consumers ahead of profit. Along with mitigating damage to Johnson & Johnson’s reputation, PR was used to save more people from consuming cyanide-laced Tylenol, and then used to inform the public that Tylenol was safe again. A win-win-win.

In these examples, you can see PR professionals are adept at handling a wide variety of both good and bad circumstances, and must address these events so the public and client can maintain a beneficial relationship. PR specialists also play a role in advising management on the best policy decisions or actions to take, and conducting programs, such as fundraising or networking events, to help the public understand the organization’s goals.

PR isn’t just used to influence a story after it happens — it’s also used to write that story in the first place. 

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The lessons Rand has learned from building and growing Moz are almost old enough to drive. From marketing flywheels versus growth hacks, to product launch timing, to knowing your audience intimately, Rand shares his best advice from a decade and a half of marketing Moz in today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about some of the big lessons learned for me personally building this company, building Moz over the last 16, 17 years.

Back in February, I left the company full-time. I’m still the Chairman of the Board and contribute in some ways, including an occasional Whiteboard Friday here and there. But what I wanted to do as part of this book that I’ve written, that’s just coming out April 24th, Lost and Founder, is talk about some of the elements in there, maybe even give you a sneak peek.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what are the two or three chapters that are super relevant to me?” let me try and walk you through a little bit of what I feel like I’ve taken away and what I’m going to change going forward, especially stuff that’s applicable to those of us in web marketing, in SEO, and in broader marketing.

Marketing flywheels > growth hacks

First off, marketing flywheels, in my experience, almost always beat growth hacks. I know that growth hacks are trendy in the last few years, especially in the startup and technology worlds. There’s been this sort of search for the next big growth hack that’s going to transform our business. But I’ve got to be honest with you. Not just here at Moz, but in all of the companies that I’ve had experience with as a marketer, this tends to be what that looks like when it’s implemented.

So folks will find a hack. They’ll find some trick that works for a little while, and it results in this type of a spike in their traffic, their conversions, their success metrics of whatever kind. So they’ve discovered a way to game Facebook or they found this new black hat trick or they found this great conversion device. Whatever it is, it’s short term and short lasting. Why is this? It tends to be because of something Andrew Chen calls — and I’ll use his euphemism here — it’s called the “Law of Shitty Click-through Rates,” which essentially says that over time, as people get experienced with a sort of marketing trend, they become immune to its effects.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

You can see this in anything that sort of tries to hack at consciousness or take advantage of psychological biases. So you get this pattern of hack, hack, hack, hack, and then none of the hacks you’re doing work anymore. Even if you have a tremendously successful one, even if this is six months in length, it tends to be the case that, over time, those diminish and decline.

Conversely, a marketing flywheel is something that you build that generates inertia and energy, such that each effort and piece of energy that you put into it helps it spin faster and faster, and it carries through. It takes less energy to turn it around again and again in the future after you’ve got it up and spinning. This is how a lot of great marketing works. You build a brand. You build your audience. They come to you. They help it amplify. They bring more and more people back. In the web marketing world, this works really well too.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So most of you are familiar with Moz’s flywheel, but I’ll try and give it a rough explanation here. We start down here with content ideas that we get from spending lots of time with SEOs. We do keyword research, and we optimize these posts, including look at Whiteboard Friday itself.

What do we do with Whiteboard Friday? You’re watching this video, but you’ll also see the transcript below. You’ll see the podcast version from SoundCloud so that you can listen to the text rather than watch me if you can do audio only for some reason. Each of these little images have been cut out and placed into the text below so that someone who’s searching in Google images might find some of these and find their way to Whiteboard Friday. A few months after it goes up here, hosted with Wistia on Moz, it will be put up on YouTube.com so that people can find it there.

So we’ve done all these sorts of things to optimize these posts. We publish them, and then we earn amplification through all the channels that we have — email, social media, certainly search engines are a big one for us. Then we grow our reach for next time.

Early in the days, early in Moz’s history, when I was first publishing, I was writing every blog post myself for many, many years. This was tremendously difficult. We weren’t getting much reach. Now, it’s an engine that turns on its own. So each time we do it, we earn more SEO ranking ability, more links, more other positive ranking signals. The next time we publish content, it has an even better chance of doing well. So Moz’s flywheel keeps spinning, keeps getting faster and faster, and it’s easier and easier. Each time I film Whiteboard Friday, I’m a little more experienced. I’ve gotten a little better at it.

Flywheels come in many different forms

Flywheels come in a lot of forms. It’s not just the classic content and SEO one that we’re describing here, although I know many of you who watch Whiteboard Friday probably use something similar. But press and PR is a big one that many folks use. I know companies that are built on primarily event marketing, and they have that same flywheel going for them. In advertising, folks have found these, in influencer-focused marketing flywheels, and community and user-generated content to build flywheels. All of these are ways to do that.

Find friction in your flywheels

If and when you find friction in your flywheel, like I did back in my early days, that’s when a hack is really helpful. If you can get a hack going to grow reach for next time, for example, in my early days, this was all about doing outreach to folks in the SEO space who were already influential, getting them to pay attention and help amplify Moz’s content. That was the hack that I needed. Essentially, it was a combination of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and the Search Ranking Factors document, which I’ve described here. But that really helped grow reach for next time and made this flywheel start spinning in the way that we wanted. So I would urge you to favor flywheels over hacks.

Marketing an MVP is hard

Second one, marketing an MVP kind of sucks. It’s just awful. Great products are rarely minimum viable products. The MVP is a wonderful way to build. I really, really like what Eric Ries has done with that movement, where he’s taken this concept of build the smallest possible thing you can that still solves the user’s problem, the customer’s problem and launch that so that you can learn and iterate from it.

I just have one complaint, which is if you do that publicly, if you launch your MVP publicly and you’re already a brand that’s well known, you really hurt your reputation. No one ever thinks this. No one ever thinks, “Gosh, you know, Moz launched their first version of new tool X. It’s pretty terrible, but I can see how, with a few years of work, it’s going to be an amazing product. I really believe in them.” No one thinks that way.

What do you think? You think, “Moz launched this product. Why did they launch it? It’s kind of terrible. Are they going downhill? Do they suck now? Maybe I should I trust their other tools less.” That’s how most people think when it comes to an MVP, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So I made this silly chart here. But if the quality goes from crap to best in class and the amplification worthiness goes from zero to viral, it tends to be the case that most MVPs are launching way down here, when they’re barely good enough and thus have almost no amplification potential and really can’t do much for your marketing other than harm it.

If you instead build it internally, build that MVP internally, test with your beta group, and wait until it gets all the way up to this quality level of, “Wow, that’s really good,” and lots of people who are using it say, “Gosh, I couldn’t live without this. I want to share it with my friends. I want to tell everyone about this. Is it okay to tell people yet?” Maybe it’s starting to leak. Now, you’re up here. Now, your launch can really do something. We have seen exactly that happen many, many times here at Moz with both MVPs and MVPs where we sat on them and waited. I talk about some of these in the book.

MVPs, great to test internally with a private group. They’re also fine if you’re really early stage and no one has heard of you. But MVPs can seriously drag down reputation and perception of a brand’s quality and equity, which is why I generally recommend against them, especially for marketing.

Living the lives of your customer/audience is a startup + marketing cheat code

Last, but not least, living the lives of your customers or your audience is a cheat code. It is a marketing and startup cheat code. One of the best things that I have ever done is to say, “You know what? I am not going to sequester myself in my office dreaming up this great thing I think we should build or I think that we should do. Instead, I’m going to spend real time with our customers.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So you might remember, at the end of 2013, I did this crazy project with my friend, Wil Reynolds, who runs Seer Interactive. They’re an SEO agency based here in the United States, in Philadelphia and San Diego. They do a lot more than SEO. Wil and I traded houses. We traded lives. We traded email accounts. I can’t tell you how weird it is answering somebody’s email, replying to Wil’s mom and being like, “Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, this is actually Rand. Your son, Wil, is answering my email off in Seattle and living in my apartment.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

That experience was transformational for me, especially after having gone through the pain of building something that I had conceptualized myself but hadn’t validated and hadn’t even come up with the idea from real problems that real people were facing. I had come up with it based on what I thought could grow the company. I seriously dislike ideas that come from that perspective now.

So since then, I just try not to assume. I try not to assume that I know what people want. When we film a Whiteboard Friday, it is almost always on a topic that someone I have met and talked to either over email or over Twitter or in person at an event or a conference, we’ve had a conversation in person. They’ve said, “I’m struggling with this.” I go, “I can make a Whiteboard Friday to help them with that.” That’s where these content ideas come from.

When I spend time with people doing their job, I was just in San Diego a little while ago meeting with a couple of agencies down there, spending time in their offices showing off a new links tool, getting all their feedback, seeing what they do with Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs and Majestic and doing their work with them, trying to go through the process that they go through and actually experiencing their pain points. I think this right here is the product and marketing cheat code. If you spend time with your audience, experiencing their pain points, the copy you write, what you design, where you place it, who you try and get to influence and amplify it, how you serve them, whether that’s through content or through advertising or through events, or whatever kind of marketing you’re doing, will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

Whatever kind of marketing you’re doing will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. If you have feedback on this or if you’ve read the book and checked that out and you liked it or didn’t like it, please, I would love to hear from you. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Use VLOOKUP in Excel 2013 and 2016 [Video Tutorial Included]

This post is an excerpt from the video series 4 Essential Microsoft Excel Skills Every Marketer Should Learn. If you want to become a master of the almighty spreadsheet, watch the full video series here.

I know, I know … “VLOOKUP function” sounds like the geekiest, most complicated thing ever.

But trust me: as was the case with pivot tables, Microsoft Excel’s VLOOKUP function is easier to use than you think. What’s more, it is incredibly powerful, and is definitely something you want to have in your arsenal of analytical weapons.

So, what does VLOOKUP do, exactly? Here’s the simple explanation: The VLOOKUP function searches for a specific value in your data, and once it identifies that value, it can find — and display — some other piece of information that’s associated with that value.

In practical terms, this means you can take the revenue data from your second spreadsheet and integrate it with the customer data in your first spreadsheet in order to reveal the bigger picture about your business’s performance.

Below, you’ll see a five-step guide to performing this VLOOKUP example, followed by a video tutorial for using VLOOKUP to organize a list of blog posts.

How Does VLOOKUP Work?

The secret to how VLOOKUP works? Unique identifiers.

A unique identifier is a piece of information that both of your data sources share, and — as its name implies — it is unique (i.e. the identifier is only associated with one record in your database). Unique identifiers include product codes, stock keeping units (SKUs), and customer contacts.

Since HubSpot and most CRMs both use email addresses to uniquely identify the contacts in their databases, HubSpot customers can use “email address” as their unique identifier to execute a VLOOKUP.

Steps to Using VLOOKUP in Excel

Take the VLOOKUP example above. Let’s say you’re looking through your HubSpot data and are checking out which of your site pages your contacts have viewed. You’re also paying attention to whether or not any of those contacts have converted into customers.

Then it hits you: In addition to knowing which of those contacts have closed, you want to know how much MRR (monthly recurring revenue) each of them brings in. That way, you can tie your revenue back to your site pages and do some analysis to see which pages are having the biggest impact on your bottom line.

There’s only one problem: Your MRR data lives in your CRM. And while you could manually look up each and every contact in your CRM to find their MRR, and then manually match those values to their corresponding contacts in your HubSpot data, the whole process would be ridiculously time-consuming and impractical.

That’s where the VLOOKUP function comes in. For your reference, here’s what a VLOOKUP function looks like:

VLOOKUP(lookup_value , table_array , col_index_num , range_lookup)

In the steps below, we’ll assign the right value to each of these components, using customer names as our unique identifier to find the MRR of each customer.

Step 1: Identify a Column of Cells You’d Like to Fill With New Data

Entering a new column title in Excel in order to use the VLOOKUP function

If this data is coming from a pivot table made in Excel, copy the data into a new spreadsheet so the VLOOKUP function can freely read this data.

Then, label a column next to the cells you want more information on with a proper title in the top cell, such as “MRR,” for monthly recurring revenue. This new column is where the data you’re fetching will go.

Step 2: Select ‘Function’ (Fx) > VLOOKUP and Enter Your Starting Cell

Function (Fx) icon in Excel, which accesses the VLOOKUP formula builder

To the left of the text bar above your spreadsheet, you’ll see a small function icon that looks like a script “Fx.” Click on the first empty cell beneath your column title and then click this function icon.

Select “VLOOKUP” from the list of options that appears, and then re-click the cell you’ve highlighted and enter the cell you’re trying to find a match for. In this case, it’s A2. You’ll start migrating your new data into E2, since this cell represents the MRR of the customer name listed in A2.

Step 3: Enter the Table Array and Column Number You’re Searching Through

      

Then, next to the “table array” field, enter the range of cells you’d like to search and the sheet where these cells are located. The VLOOKUP form will help you fetch the correct page.

Beneath this field, you’ll also enter the “column index number” of the table array you’re searching through. For example, if you’re focusing on columns B through K (notated “B:K” when entered in the “table array” field), but the specific values you want are in column K, you’ll enter “10” in the “column index number” field, since column K is the 10th column from the left.

Step 4: Enter Your Range Lookup

In contexts like monthly revenue, you want to find exact matches from the table you’re searching through. To do this, enter ‘FALSE’ in the “range lookup” field. This tells Excel you want to find only the exact revenue associated with each sales contact.

Step 5: Click ‘Done’ (or ‘Enter’) and Fill Your New Column

In order to officially bring in the values you want into your new column from Step 1, click “Done” (or “Enter,” depending on your version of Excel) after filling the “range lookup” field. This will populate your first cell. You might take this opportunity to look in the other spreadsheet to make sure this was the correct value. 

Entering the first new value from Excel's VLOOKUP formula builder

If so, populate the rest of the new column with each subsequent value by clicking the first filled cell, then clicking the tiny square that appears on the bottom-right corner of this cell. Done! All your values should appear.

Filling a new column with data from Excel's VLOOKUP formula builder

Alright, enough explanation: let’s see another example of the VLOOKUP in action!

In the video below, we’re taking the pivot table we made in video #2, pasting the values into a new sheet, and using it as an example report. We then use the VLOOKUP function to match blog post authors (from our second data source) to their corresponding post titles. In this instance, we’re using post title as our unique identifier.

Author’s note: Keep in mind there are many different versions of Excel, so what you see in the video above might not always match up exactly with what you’ll see in your version. That’s why we encourage you to download the written instructions and demo data so you can follow along.

Download demo data | Download instructions (Mac) | Download instructions (PC)

Want to learn to do more in Excel? Download the full video series, 4 Essential Microsoft Excel Skills Every Marketer Should Learn.

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SEO basics: What is HTTP/2?

Whenever you click on a link to visit a site a request gets made to the server. The server answers with a status message (header) and a file list for that website. After viewing that list, the browser asks for the files one at a time. On the ‘old’ HTTP1.1 protocol, this process takes ages as there is only one line available that has to open and close after each file has been sent. HTTP/2 offers a dramatic speed boost as the line can be kept open and a lot of stuff can be sent at once. Meet HTTP/2!

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How does HTTP/2 work?

Let’s say you want a brand-new box of LEGO. First, you go to the store to get a specific box. When you get home, you open the box and see the instructions. The instructions say what you have to do: one brick at a time. Now, you can only get one brick at a time. You have to keep asking the instructions: “Which brick do I need now?” And the instructions will look and give you the right brick. This back-and-forth keeps happening until you have finished the entire LEGO set. Does the set have 3300 bricks? Well, that’ll take a while. This is HTTP1.1.

With HTTP/2 this changes. You go to the store to pick up your box. Open it, find the instructions and you can ask for all the bricks used on a part of the LEGO set. You can keep asking the instructions for more bricks, without having to look at the manual. “These bricks go together, so here they are.” If you want it really fast, you could even get all the bricks at once so you can build the set in an instant.

http1.1 vs http2

HTTP/2 can handle more things at once

HTTP/2 has a lot of cool features that can help speed up your loading times. The most important one, of course, is full multiplexing. This means that multiple requests can happen at the same time over a connection that stays open for the duration of the transfer process. Another cool thing is Server push; this starts as one request but when the server notices the HTML requires several assets, it can send these all at once without asking. This might be a good fit for your site, but that depends on factors too hard to explain here.

Like I said in the intro, with HTTP1.1 a browser requests a site -> server sends a header back -> that header contains a status message and HTML body -> for every file needed to build the site, a single connection has to be opened and closed and opened and closed. Whenever a piece of this puzzle acts up it can hold back the rest, slowing the process down even further. This is called head-of-line blocking and it sucks big time. This is one of the many reasons why HTTP1.1 can use an update.

Why HTTP/2 for SEO? Because site speed is important

We need speed. Site speed has been an SEO ranking factor for years. Now, with the introduction of the mobile-first index Google will take a critical look at the loading speed of your mobile site. Over the past few years, sites have only gotten bigger. Big sites have loads of assets like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, images et cetera and that equals longer loading time.

Another big issues is latency — especially on mobile devices. The longer your latency is, the longer it takes for your request to reach the server and for the server to send back the response. That’s why you should always use a CDN to reduce the time it will take to get your stuff to your readers from a nearby location. While browsers can handle a small amount of multiple connections, which in itself, adds additional time to the whole ordeal, the process of sending stuff back and forth doesn’t really change.

There are some things you can do to improve site speed by fine-tuning how your server handles these things, but at its core, HTTP1.1 isn’t a very efficient process. HTTP/2 makes this process a lot easier to manage for servers and browsers, therefore, drastically speeding things up. Keep in mind that the advent of HTTP/2 does not retire HTTP1.1 as browsers will still use the old protocol as fallback.

Implementing HTTP/2

Implementing HTTP/2 is fairly easy and it could be that your server is already using HTTP/2. Check with your hosting provider what your options are. You can also choose a Content Delivery Network, also known as a CDN, that offers a full HTTP/2 solution. HTTP/2 offers a quick performance win and it even lets you secure your site, because it uses HTTPS connections by default.

Conclusion to what is HTTP/2

HTTP/2 is a newish protocol that will drastically speed up the web. It uses new technologies to take away one of the biggest bottle necks of the web introducing full multiplexing connections. Servers can now open a single connection with a browser and keep sending all the files of a site until everything is done. After that the connection closes and the browser can render the site.

Read more: ‘Performance optimization in an HTTP/2 world’ »

The post SEO basics: What is HTTP/2? appeared first on Yoast.

Caroline’s Corner: How to kill that inner critic

In my previous blog post, I wrote that the only way you could fail to write all those posts you had in mind was with the wrong planning. But, I knew already that I left out one tiny detail. While in theory, you’ll only need a site, ideas and inspiration to write your posts, there could be another factor you didn’t take into consideration: your inner critic.

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Your inner critic or inner editor is best described as a subpersonality that judges you and your abilities as you are working hard on reaching your goals. It’s often mean and can get you downright insecure.

Constant struggle

I started writing in my early teens and became an active writer during November, better known as National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo for short. In this month, it’s your goal to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. 50k is a lot, especially if your inner critic should’ve been cast in Mean Girls as Regina George’s evil stepsister. I learned about the inner critic principle during this month back in 2006. Since then I’ve known when my inner critic is talking.

I’ve struggled with my inner critic for a long time and we still don’t always get along. I found that I could have the perfect blog planning, the most brilliant ideas and an incredible amount of time, but still didn’t get started, or didn’t finish. I have 36 posts as a draft for my blog and a lot of them won’t ever see the light of day. It’s not that they are awful. Others might even think they’re good enough or funny enough and that I should just hit the publish button. My inner critic disagrees though, and that’s what’s keeping me in the past from updating my blog frequently.

Befriend your inner critic so you can silence it when it’s needed

After I learned about the inner critic, I taught myself to treat it as an enemy that should be locked up. During a NaNoWriMo event, we created an inner critic puppet and locked it up in a makeshift cage or tied it down. Whatever we did, we did it with the intention to shut it up.

I developed another strategy two years ago when I found that treating my critic as an enemy, was blocking me altogether. While it worked for almost ten years, I came to a point where I didn’t want to write anymore because of my inner critic. No matter what the people around me told me, I convinced myself that I was the worst writer ever. Now, I’ve befriended my inner critic so I can tell him to shut up — kindly.

I know this might sound strange, but I started visualizing my inner critic. Two years ago I talked to a haptonomist and she asked me why I wasn’t writing anymore. When I explained my fears and the principle of the inner critic, she asked me what it looked like and where it lived. My inner critic is big, blue and lives in a forest. It chews on and spits out whatever it finds on its path. I dubbed him my woolly monster. As I’m writing this, my inner critic, or the woolly monster, is telling me the readers might think I’m off my head. It also says I probably shouldn’t be writing this down. But if I don’t write this down, there won’t be a useful post today.

I kindly tell myself (or my woolly monster) that while I appreciate the feedback, it’s not the right time right now. It can come out after I’ve finished the draft of my blog post and am ready for editing. After that, I calmly remind it that one of my colleagues is reviewing and editing, if necessary, my writing as well. There’s no need for my inner critic to sabotage me because that’s what it can be doing.

What blogging for Yoast brought me

When I started my blog series over a month ago here on Yoast.com, I was excited to start. As I was struggling to get that first post written, Marieke told me to stop my perfectionism from ruling me. “There’s a blog team that will edit your posts if necessary,” she told me. And she was right. We have an amazing blog team and I’ve become a frequent visitor to their office the last few weeks. I meet with them to brainstorm, to explain my struggles or to ask for help. This collaboration led me to a big change for my personal blog as well: I now have my blog team.

Create a blog team

That’s right; I’ve created my a blog team. Sounds pretty professional, right? I didn’t do it on purpose by the way, but that sounds less professional. I’ve acquired people around me without them actively knowing I consider them a member of my blog team.

One of the most important members is my husband: he proofreads all my blog posts before I consider them finished. If he smiles or chuckles, I know I did a good job. And if he doesn’t like it or I face insecurities, he’s the first to provide honest feedback. The other members of my team are my close friends who have told me they love reading my posts. Sometimes I send them a draft and request feedback. Other times they send me messages telling me what they thought of my latest blog post. No matter the type of feedback I receive or request, it’s valuable to me. Not an entirely unimportant side-effect of this team: it satisfies my inner critic more and more each day.

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