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Ask Yoast: Yoast SEO premium features explained

As most of you will agree, the free version of Yoast SEO is already an awesome plugin. So, we understand that many of you frugal site owners and bloggers may be a bit reluctant to ‘splurge’ on Yoast SEO Premium. What more could the premium version have to offer? Well, as a matter of fact, it has a great deal more to offer! It has several features that help you drastically improve your site structure, make it easier to avoid 404s, and give more insight into your content. In this Ask Yoast, I discuss Yoast SEO premium features that are especially interesting for bloggers.

Alexa emailed us this question:

My audience are travel bloggers and I think they all use the free version of Yoast SEO. I don’t think they would pay for Premium unless they really understood the value. Can you share the main differences of the free vs. the paid version?

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

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin

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Yoast SEO premium features explained

Well, there’s nothing I like more than an opportunity to tell you why you should give me money. So let me do that. There’s a couple of things in Yoast SEO Premium that I think are awesome for regular bloggers. One of those things is the redirect manager: if you change a URL somewhere you can easily redirect it; if you delete a post we will give you options to do something with that.

Even more important for bloggers is the internal linking feature that we have. We give you options for posts that you could link to from your current post. Based on what you’re writing about, we’ll tell you, “Hey, this looks similar to that post, you should link to that post.” We’ll give you that option. This will hugely increase how many internal links you have in your site. And because of having more internal links, people will stay on your site longer, your site will rank better, there’s lots and lots of benefits.

Yoast SEO Premium comes with a few more options; I’d encourage you to check out the Yoast SEO Premium page and well, go buy Yoast SEO Premium, is not that expensive. Good luck.

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.
(note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘Why you should buy Yoast SEO premium’ »

The post Ask Yoast: Yoast SEO premium features explained appeared first on Yoast.

Stop pleasing Google!

Over the last couple of months, I attended some events, for instance, our own YoastCon, which was awesome! The thing that kept echoing in my head was the vast misunderstanding a lot of people have about websites and Google. One of my firm beliefs is that Google is becoming more and more ‘human,’ and should be treated that way. This means that in all your SEO efforts, you should consider the use for us human visitors first, and then check if that aligns with any SEO recommendations. Make your websites for humans, not Google. Or in other words: stop pleasing Google!

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin

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SEO from the internet stone age

What you see in most ancient websites, is huge white blocks without content at the bottom of every page. If you press CTRL/CMD+A, a pile of words appears. By using the same text color as the background color of the page, words were only available for the search engine that was reading the code instead of the page. Hidden words, that serve no other purpose than luring Google. Or rather Altavista, in that era. I hear you: nobody does that anymore. Oh, how wrong you are:White on white

I took that screenshot last week of a live site. The page actually says “site updated daily” and I think we even purchased our pinball machine there. It just lists a sh*tload of pinball machine names there. This will never work in the US . It’s spammy, it’s not serving anyone, but it solely served Altavista back then. To be honest, I think this has already or will eventually ruin your rankings and traffic due to that. It’s just that there aren’t that many pinball machine vendors in the Netherlands. This one just happened to have the pinball machine we wanted (Indiana Jones, with the revolver-shaped ball shooter).

Indiana Jones

Although GIF images might be back to stay, this same-color-text-on-background practice should vanish from the present-day internet. Again, stop pleasing Google. Write for humans.

Panda and Penguin changed SEO

Most SEO consultants have said goodbye to spammy, shady optimization techniques because Google actively penalized you for it since 2011. Panda, focused on quality content, ruined your rankings for the use of thin content (short copy, usually over-optimized for a keyword, use of too many banners, things like that). Penguin threw you out of the search result pages because your website had so many bad links from casino / p0rn / v1agra sites, blog networks or simply any other sites that were created to deliver links.

Google Panda and Penguin

We never practiced techniques that touched Panda or Penguin, by the way. It’s all short-term win, and we want to help you optimize for the long run. The thing the internet learned from Panda and Penguin shouldn’t be “stop trying to fool Google,” but “focus on your human visitors.” To be the first result, be the best result. Stop pleasing Google with your rubbish optimization.

And now, 2018 is just around the corner, and we’re still not focusing on our primary visitor.

2018: please your visitors, not Google

If you are like me, New Year’s resolutions are set in May next year, so you know what is achievable. But this one is easy. Let’s all start focusing on our non-automated visitors, starting now, continuing in 2018.

Welcome!

That means, among other things:

  • Include the right rich snippets, don’t add schema.org markup just to inform Google about all the other stuff you do.
  • Realize that meta keywords are only used by your competitor to see what you want to rank for. Google still doesn’t use them.
  • Don’t stuff your footer with all kind of irrelevant links. Keep it focused, make sure these links are helping your visitor. Google will find all relevant pages if you focus on a good site structure anyway. We have a course for that.
  • Prevent duplicate content. Don’t confuse Google with almost similar pages. Those serve no one.
  • Again, no white-text-on-white-background nonsense. Google recognizes it quite easily and will penalize you for that shady, ancient technique.
  • Stop buying links in an attempt to fool Google and get more low-quality traffic. Write quality content instead, trust humans to find it and have them link to your pages because you are worth it.
  • The same goes for trying to insert that automated comment on a gazillion blogs. a) most comment links are or should be nofollowed and b) you are not helping other visitors. Google is capable of filtering the main content <div> anyway.
  • Scraping feeds to create automated content for your website is plain stupid. Either for affiliate gain or just to add content to your website, this type of content, to lure Google to your site, doesn’t add any value to the internet, Google or any human. It just slows down Google, as it has to decide on whether this content is of any value to its visitors. It’s not most of the times. The source is.
  • Keyword stuffing: just keep a keen eye on the keyword density. This is something that we are actively working on for our Yoast SEO plugin. With for instance the rise of voice search, longer keyphrases become more and more common. Using a long keyphrase five times in your 300-word-article will look so unnatural, that it’s not a good practice at all, where using a certain keyword five times might fit there.
  • And what about synonyms? Google recognizes these, at least in English. Did you know our premium plugin supports multiple keywords? Use that to balance synonyms, for instance.

So, stop pleasing Google!

Start focusing on your visitors, on the people that want to buy your product or services. All the developments in Google that took place in the last years focus on one thing: quality websites for your users. That goes for Panda, but also for UX, responsiveness, speed optimization, etc. Mobile-first? Yes. And equally important user-first as well. So, please, stop pleasing Google! On behalf of the internet, I thank you.

Read more: ‘Content SEO: How to analyze your audience’ »

The post Stop pleasing Google! appeared first on Yoast.

“Why Did My SEO Ranking Drop?” How to Find and Fix Falling Blog Posts Before It’s Too Late

Wanna see something scary?

ack (1)

That, my friends, is what I would call a definite downward trend — and for a post that, at its high point, received 10,000 views per month.

Maybe it looks familiar. And maybe it doesn’t, but it looks like something you want to avoid at all costs.

Either way — if you’re a marketer that plays any role in managing your brand’s blog — read on.

We’re going to go over some of the ways to avoid that big, scary traffic trend above — or to prevent it from happening again, if you’ve seen it before.

First, we’ll begin with the questions you should ask if you’ve noticed your SEO rankings drop. Then, once we’ve covered all those bases, we’ll get into how to proactively stay on top of your rankings, to get into good habits that can help you maintain your blog’s SEO health.

Ready to get into diagnosing those problematic blog posts? Let’s get started.

To demonstrate how this works, I’ll be diagnosing “40 Sales Interview Questions to Recruit the Best Reps in 2017,” which got nearly 24% fewer views in September than May.

You’ll need access to Google Analytics and SEMrush to follow these steps.

1. Is the search term itself losing traction?

Go to SEMrush and enter the post URL into the top search bar. Google Analytics (GA) doesn’t pull the “https://” part of a URL, so make sure you manually enter it. 

Find the highest-volume keyword the post is ranking in the top five for. It should be fairly general; for example, in September 2017, “40 Sales Interview Questions to Recruit the Best Reps in 2017” ranked #2 for “sales interview questions.”

Go to Google Trends and enter that keyword. The default time range is one year.

ga-10

You may need to change the date to see more micro trends; I went with 5/1/2017 to 9/30/17 to see the May through September changes.

trends

If interest in the term is steady — or up and to the right — it’s the post, not your audience.

2. Has the post declined in the rankings for a major keyword?

Go back to SEMrush and enter the post in the top search bar again. Change the date range under “Live data” in the top right to your highest-traffic month. (It should update to say “Historical data.”)

Export this list as a CSV. Don’t exit the SEMrush page with the rankings for the post you’re analyzing – you’ll be coming back to it in a bit.

Open the spreadsheet, and rename the tab “[High-Traffic Month] [Year]” (for example, “May 2017”.)

Delete Columns D-K.

rank-changes (1)

Pull up the SEMrush window again. Change the date range to the most recent month.

Export this list as a CSV.

Delete columns D-K. Copy and paste the contents of this spreadsheet into a tab on the first spreadsheet. Rename the tab “[Most Recent Month] [Year]” (“September 2017”).

sept (1)-1

Go to the first tab. Add a Column D titled “[Most Recent Month] [Year] Rankings”. (For example, “September 2017.”)

Insert this formula into cell D2.

=VLOOKUP(A2, September 2017!A:B, 2, FALSE)

Click the small box in the lower right-hand corner to apply the formula to the remaining rows.

Add a Column E and call it “Up or down?”

Insert this formula into E2:

=B2-D2

Highlight Column E. Click “Apply Conditional Formatting” → “Highlight Cell Rules” → “Less Than” and insert “0.”

Now every negative rank change is highlighted in red.

negative-rank-changes (1)

Notice any particularly high-volume keywords you dropped in rank for. In this case, we went from #1 to #2 for “sales interview questions” (2900 monthly search volume) and from #1 to #3 for “inside sales interview questions” (720 monthly search volume).

3. How recently have you updated the post?

If you haven’t touched it in over six months, a fresher and more comprehensive link might be winning.

Action item: Update the post with additional content, more recent links, etc.

4. How recently have you promoted the post in an email?

A big bump in traffic from our email subscribers usually lifts rankings:

email-promotion

Action item: Include the post in an email send, either as the first or second link. (Any lower, and it won’t get clicks, rendering this strategy pointless.)

5. Are the posts that have surpassed it in the search engine results pages higher-quality; e.g., more comprehensive, more examples, better graphics/visuals?

That probably means their time-on-page is higher and bounce rate is lower. They may be getting more referral traffic than you as well.

Action item: Do whatever your competitors are doing … but better. If their guides feature a subject-matter expert, feature two subject-matter experts. (Because this is a time- and energy-intensive technique, don’t use it unless you’ve exhausted all the others, or this is a really competitive and important keyword.)

6. Are you getting fewer backlinks than your competitors/has your number of backlinks declined?

As websites disappear or change, you naturally lose backlinks.

You can find this information on SEMrush by entering the post URL in the top search bar and scrolling down until you see this:

backlinks (1)

Action item: Quote one or more influencers — either by pulling from something they’ve published, or reaching out for a direct quote — then, ask them to share the post with their audiences.

7. What if your ranking hasn’t dropped?

See if the keyword now has a search feature.

Search features include:

  • Featured snippet (FS)
  • People also ask (PAA)
  • Carousel

Here’s an example of how a carousel result would look for a topic related to sales:

… and for the FS and PAA boxes:

These typically appear in what’s known as the “position zero” slot, meaning everything below is bumped down. Suddenly, the #1 ranking is in second place.

Action item: Try to improve upon the current FS. Can you provide the same information but with less jargon? With more detail? Greater accuracy? This obviously changes on a case-by-case basis, but usually, the snippet isn’t perfect.

See if there’s an ad — or several.

Paid results can also — sometimes simultaneously — be at fault.

Take a look at the results for “How to use CRM”:

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about these paid results — except to just accept the dip in traffic.

Use Google Search Console.

Google Search Console can also help diagnose the issue.

In the left sidebar, choose Search Traffic → Search Analytics:

sc-1

Next, click “Pages” → “Filter Pages” → “URLs Containing”, then paste the URL of the post you’re analyzing.

“URLs Containing” is preferable to “URL is exactly” because you don’t want to miss any modified versions of that URL, i.e. one with UTM parameters.

Then, click “Dates” → “Set date range” → “Last 90 days” — that’s as far back as Google will go.

sc-2

Here’s what those top checkboxes mean:

  • Clicks: The raw number of clicks from the SERPs
  • Impressions: The number of times the page showed up on the SERP
  • CTR: Clicks divided by impressions
  • Position: Average ranking for all the different queries this page shows up for. (Take this metric with a grain of salt — if you’re #1 for a low-volume query and #9 for a high-volume one, your Position will be 5, even though one rank is far more valuable than the other.)

It may be helpful to look at the changes in Clicks, Impressions, and CTR individually, as checking all of them gives you this:

ahhhh.jpg

A little overwhelming, no?

First, let’s look at clicks. (I’m still analyzing “40 Interview Questions.”)

clicks-1

Looks like clicks are going down slightly. (The valleys are the weekends, when far fewer people are searching for professional/educational content.)

impressions

Impressions are fairly stable.

CTR-1

Aha! Here’s the issue. In late September, clickthrough rate (CTR) started falling.

Analysis 101:

  • If impressions are steady, but your clicks (and therefore CTR) are dropping, your rank is dropping and/or a search feature is pushing your result farther down the page.
  • If impressions are decreasing, but clicks and CTR are constant, seasonality/declining search interest is probably to blame. Verify with Google Trends.
  • If impressions are increasing and CTR is dropping, meaning clicks aren’t growing proportionally higher, check if you’re ranking for an image. You should also check whether your post has started ranking for more long tail keywords — ranking for more keywords, while a good thing (topics/over keywords), will always lead to higher impressions, but clicks may suffer as you may not always rank highly for those longer tail keywords.

Now scroll down and look at the most common queries leading people to your page. Does the content on the page reflect what they’re looking for?

I’ve highlighted the queries this post will not answer.

queries

Decide whether it’s worth updating the post to address these content gaps. Since this one is about interviewing salespeople, not marketers, I’m not going to add marketing interview questions – that’d be too out of left field. And since “sales interview exercises” sounds like an entirely separate post, I’m not going to add that in, either.

However, sometimes you find a relevant angle that’s missing from your post. When that’s the case, by all means, go ahead and include it — it can only help.

How to Stay on Top of Your Rankings

If you’re a blog editor, writer, or manager, I recommend running a report at the end of every month to see which of your property’s top URLs have lost traffic.

Periodically reviewing these:

  • Helps you rescue pages before they permanently slip in the rankings
  • Reveals search trends
  • Gives you a sense of your audience’s interests — both stable and changing

The first time you do this analysis, pick your highest-traffic month from the past half-year. Using a medium- or low-traffic month will give you a more conservative estimate of which URLs have declined in organic traffic, which may disguise pages in trouble.

In GA, go to the left-hand sidebar and click “Behavior” → “Site Content” → “All Pages.”

ga-1.jpg

Add your segment and select your date range.

If you’re analyzing a property that doesn’t have a given segment, click “Advanced” and apply this filter:

“Include” “Page” “Containing” “[Property URL]”

Scroll to the bottom and change “Show rows to 500.”

ga-4

Click “Export to CSV.”

Open your spreadsheet, name the first tab “[Month] [Year]”, then rename Column B “Views [Month] [Year]”, and delete all other columns.

Go back to GA. Change the date range to the most recent fully completed month (i.e. if you’re doing this on October 30, the date range would be September 1, 2017 – September 30, 2017.)

Your filter and the number of rows from the previous month you pulled should still apply, so all you have to do is click “Export to CSV.”

Open your spreadsheet, rename Column B “Views [Month] [Year]”, and delete all other columns. Copy the contents of this spreadsheet, then paste it into the second tab of your highest-traffic month spreadsheet. Name the second tab “[Month] [Year]”.

Go back to your first tab. Name Column C “Views [Month] [Year].”

ga-5

In cell C7, insert this formula:

=VLOOKUP(A7, ‘Sept 2017’!A:B, 2, FALSE)

Click the box in the right-hand corner of the cell to apply this formula to the remaining rows.

Rename Column D to “15+% decline?”

Insert this formula into D7:

=IF(C7<(B7-(B7*0.15)), “YES”, ” “)

Apply the formula to the remaining rows.

Click “Conditional Formatting”, “Highlight Cell Rules,” “Text that Contains…” and set “Specific text” “containing” “Yes” to red.

excel-1

And So, If You Remember Nothing Else …

Here’s a recap.

1. Every month, run a report to identify the top posts that have declined in traffic.

2. Determine whether the search term is declining in traffic (nothing you can do) or whether the post itself is dropping in rank (lots you can do).

3. If it’s the latter, diagnose the specific issue(s) using SEMrush and Google Search Console.

Yes, this process is a time- and energy-intensive one. But it’s easier to fix your car than buy a new one — and hope you haven’t gotten a lemon).

Performing maintenance on your blog’s greatest hits takes fewer resources than writing a net-new one … and is usually far more successful.

Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t ) I Target? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

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Which of my competitor's keyword should I target?

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So this week we’re chatting about your competitors’ keywords and which of those competitive keywords you might want to actually target versus not.

Many folks use tools, like SEMrush and Ahrefs and KeywordSpy and Spyfu and Moz’s Keyword Explorer, which now has this feature too, where they look at: What are the keywords that my competitors rank for, that I may be interested in? This is actually a pretty smart way to do keyword research. Not the only way, but a smart way to do it. But the challenge comes in when you start looking at your competitors’ keywords and then realizing actually which of these should I go after and in what priority order. In the world of competitive keywords, there’s actually a little bit of a difference between classic keyword research.

So here I’ve plugged in Hammer and Heels, which is a small, online furniture store that has some cool designer furniture, and Dania Furniture, which is a competitor of theirs — they’re local in the Seattle area, but carry sort of modern, Scandinavian furniture — and IndustrialHome.com, similar space. So all three of these in a similar space, and you can see sort of keywords that return that several of these, one or more of these rank for. I put together difficulty, volume, and organic click-through rate, which are some of the metrics that you’ll find. You’ll find these metrics actually in most of the tools that I just mentioned.

Process:

So when I’m looking at this list, which ones do I want to actually go after and not, and how do I choose? Well, this is the process I would recommend.

I. Try and make sure you first understand your keyword to conversion funnel.

So if you’ve got a classic sort of funnel, you have people buying down here — this is a purchase — and you have people who search for particular keywords up here, and if you understand which people you lose and which people actually make it through the buying process, that’s going to be very helpful in knowing which of these terms and phrases and which types of these terms and phrases to actually go after, because in general, when you’re prioritizing competitive keywords, you probably don’t want to be going after these keywords that send traffic but don’t turn into conversions, unless that’s actually your goal. If your goal is raw traffic only, maybe because you serve advertising or other things, or because you know that you can capture a lot of folks very well through retargeting, for example maybe Hammer and Heels says, “Hey, the biggest traffic funnel we can get because we know, with our retargeting campaigns, even if a keyword brings us someone who doesn’t convert, we can convert them later very successfully,” fine. Go ahead.

II. Choose competitors that tend to target the same audience(s).

So the people you plug in here should tend to be competitors that tend to target the same audiences. Otherwise, your relevance and your conversion get really hard. For example, I could have used West Elm, which does generally modern furniture as well, but they’re very, very broad. They target just about everyone. I could have done Ethan Allen, which is sort of a very classic, old-school furniture maker. Probably a really different audience than these three websites. I could have done IKEA, which is sort of a low market brand for everybody. Again, not kind of the match. So when you are targeting conversion heavy, assuming that these folks were going after mostly conversion focused or retargeting focused rather than raw traffic, my suggestion would be strongly to go after sites with the same audience as you.

If you’re having trouble figuring out who those people are, one suggestion is to check out a tool called SimilarWeb. It’s expensive, but very powerful. You can plug in a domain and see what other domains people are likely to visit in that same space and what has audience overlap.

III. The keyword selection process should follow some of these rules:

A. Are easiest first.

So I would go after the ones that tend to be, that I think are going to be most likely for me to be able to rank for easiest. Why do I recommend that? Because it’s tough in SEO with a lot of campaigns to get budget and buy-in unless you can show progress early. So any time you can choose the easiest ones first, you’re going to be more successful. That’s low difficulty, high odds of success, high odds that you actually have the team needed to make the content necessary to rank. I wouldn’t go after competitive brands here.

B. Are similar to keywords you target that convert well now.

So if you understand this funnel well, you can use your AdWords campaign particularly well for this. So you look at your paid keywords and which ones send you highly converting traffic, boom. If you see that lighting is really successful for our furniture brand, “Oh, well look, glass globe chandelier, that’s got some nice volume. Let’s go after that because lighting already works for us.”

Of course, you want ones that fit your existing site structure. So if you say, “Oh, we’re going to have to make a blog for this, oh we need a news section, oh we need a different type of UI or UX experience before we can successfully target the content for this keyword,” I’d push that down a little further.

C. High volume, low difficulty, high organic click-through rate, or SERP features you can reach.

So basically, when you look at difficulty, that’s telling you how hard is it for me to rank for this potential keyword. If I look in here and I see some 50 and 60s, but I actually see a good number in the 30s and 40s, I would think that glass globe chandelier, S-shaped couch, industrial home furniture, these are pretty approachable. That’s impressive stuff.

Volume, I want as high as I can get, but oftentimes high volume leads to very high difficulty.
Organic click-through rate percentage, this is essentially saying what percent of people click on the 10 blue link style, organic search results. Classic SEO will help get me there. However, if you see low numbers, like a 55% for this type of chair, you might take a look at those search results and see that a lot of images are taking up the other organic click-through, and you might say, “Hey, let’s go after image SEO as well.” So it’s not just organic click-through rate. You can also target SERP features.

D. Are brands you carry/serve, generally not competitor’s brand names.

Then last, but not least, I would urge you to go after brands when you carry and serve them, but not when you don’t. So if this Ekornes chair is something that your furniture store, that Hammers and Heels actually carries, great. But if it’s something that’s exclusive to Dania, I wouldn’t go after it. I would generally not go after competitors’ brand names or branded product names with an exception, and I actually used this site to highlight this. Industrial Home Furniture is both a branded term, because it’s the name of this website — Industrial Home Furniture is their brand — and it’s also a generic. So in those cases, I would tell you, yes, it probably makes sense to go after a category like that.

If you follow these rules, you can generally use competitive intel on keywords to build up a really nice portfolio of targetable, high potential keywords that can bring you some serious SEO returns.

Look forward to your comments and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Welcome to the new Yoast Academy

Yoast’s mission is SEO for everyone, and one way we work towards that is by providing knowledge on all aspects of SEO to everyone. Our blog has a wealth of knowledge, but it can be quite overwhelming: where to start? To help people easily learn all about a particular aspect of SEO, we also offer several SEO courses. These provide a full package of videos, selected reading materials and questions at the end of each lesson. Today, we’ve taken the first step in our ambitious plans for the future of the Yoast Academy.

New to SEO? Learn the Basics of SEO in our Basic SEO course »

Basic SEO training

Info

The first step we take is migrating to another learning management system (LMS), but also improving many aspects of the learning environment. We’re thrilled with how this turned out and would love to share a sneak peek with you! So, in this post, Academy lead Jesse and developer Diede, two of the brains behind all this, discuss the changes and improvements to the front- and backend of the Academy. But first, let’s go back to where it all started!

Want to help improve Yoast Academy? Please fill out our Academy survey to share your ideas!

Origins of the Yoast Academy

The Yoast Academy was founded by Marieke some two years ago, to give people who wanted to up their SEO skills an alternative to reading through loads of posts and eBooks. Each course provides students with everything they need to master a specific aspect of SEO, for example, SEO copywriting, technical SEO or site structure. The tailor-made courses soon proved to be a success. The number of courses steadily grew, to a total of six today.

In the early days, it was mostly Marieke who spent much of her time on the academy; now we have two more people dedicating their time to improving and creating SEO courses.

The response of our students to our courses has been overwhelmingly positive:

“Getting through the #yoastacademy and LOVING it. Need sleep now. My brain is full for today. @yoast no more exercises today!” -Fiona Smallwood

“[…] as an entrepreneur it is also important for me to stay on top of the latest SEO developments for my presence. This is where Yoast Academy comes into play. They provide great knowledge transfer at fair prices. I’m really happy with what these guys have created with the Yoast Academy.” – Matthias Wilhelm

All these happy reactions have inspired us to invest more and more time in our courses, to make becoming an SEO expert on all aspects an attainable goal for everyone.

What’s changed with this update?

Of course, we’ve been pleased with our courses from the start, but this update has further improved them in some key areas. The most significant change is found in the learning environment. Jesse explains: “We simplified the course structure, so the lesson page is simpler than it was. We took out as much as we could, so the user has time to focus on the content itself.”

Besides removing distractions, the team added course navigation to the lesson pages. Jesse: “Users can now navigate through the course more easily, and will also have an idea of where they are in the course. So, this is a much more intuitive way to see what role the lesson plays in the course as a whole.”

new yoast academy flow

Another change is that courses in the Yoast Academy are now accessible through MyYoast. This means that you can access your courses directly, no separate login is required. We have also added an interesting new feature in MyYoast. You can now manage your courses in MyYoast. This is especially interesting if you are buying a course as a company. If you buy ten courses, for example, you can assign ten employees to each course. Because of that, buying courses and managing courses for a large number of employees has become much easier.

Also, this migration has made Yoast Academy part of the yoast.com multisite environment. Diede explains what that means for the developers at Yoast: “I’m delighted that Yoast Academy will now be part of the yoast.com multisite. It won’t be a big change for users, but for us, as developers, it’ll be so much easier to work on the Academy. And besides that, it’s just very cool that we can now start using the Academy pages in MyYoast!”

New and improved questions

One final, crucial change that Academy students will notice when finishing a lesson: new and improved questions in four courses. The questions at the end of a lesson are now more interactive in our Basic SEO, Copywriting, Technical SEO and Structured data courses. Jesse explains why this is so important: “Learndash is an LMS that offers several different question types. This allows us, in turn, to have users practice what they should do, and they can test whether they can apply their knowledge, rather than just being told what they should do. So now students can actually practice SEO themselves in the course environment. If you just hear what the theory is, learning retention is much worse, so you simply don’t remember as much as when you practice yourself.” So changing the questions has been an essential step towards an even more meaningful learning experience.

One of these new question types is the ‘gap-fill exercise.’ In the screenshot below, you can see that this type of question not only requires the student to remember what they’ve learned but also to understand how to apply it.

Another new type of question, the sorting question, allows students to check whether they fully understand the steps required to do something. They can easily drag and drop each block in the right order.

Of course, switching to another LMS always takes some work. Diede reveals: “The biggest challenge in all this was to get to know this new plugin, inside and out, in such a short time.” However, having these new possibilities for our courses has been worth the effort.

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Future plans

We’re nowhere near done yet, in fact, we have some ambitious plans for the Academy. Jesse explains: “This migration was quite a big step, I think when you look at it in a vacuum. But we want to do so much more, so in that regard, this was just a preparation that will enable us to achieve much more in the future. We’re going to do more research among our users, to make sure that we know what they want in an academy and what they want to have improved. We’re going to combine that with our ideas of efficient learning to make sure that we make the best academy possible for our users. So in 2018, we’re going to take another big step!”

Check out Yoast Academy

In short, it’s been a great process so far, and you can expect to see a lot more about the Yoast Academy in 2018. We have big plans, and we look forward to carrying them out together. In the meantime, why don’t you check out our courses and explore the new and improved Yoast Academy?

Read more: ‘Yoast Academy: Teach yourself SEO’ »

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5 SEO questions you were afraid to ask

Some SEO questions are awkward. You want to know the answer to them, but you feel pretty stupid for just having the thought about it in your mind. If you ask your next door SEO neighbor, you’re afraid he or she will laugh. You’re embarrassed. You’re afraid to ask that specific question. But still, there is this undying desire to know the answer. You tried Google, asked your Amazon Echo, but there is a deafening silence reminding you that this is indeed a strange question. Let me answer 5 SEO questions you were probably just too afraid to ask.

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Can SEO agency X really get me to rank #1?

Yes, SEO agency X can get you to rank #1, to be honest. They can. They will use shady techniques, like adding a gazillion keyword focused pages to your website, and add your website to a blog network for links. Your traffic will rise, your rankings will go up, and if you are lucky, you will obtain that number one spot in Google for a particular keyword.

What they don’t tell you, is that they tricked Google into ranking your website number one. After some time, you will see your traffic drop, slowly or all of a sudden. This is the time Google needed to figure out what was going on with your website. This is the time when Google finds that you(r SEO company) was luring it into liking your website so much. And this is also the time that you lose all your traffic and find your site in the gutter of the internet, after page 2 in Google. Money wasted.

What should I have done?

These kinds of SEO questions all have the same answer. You should have invested in quality content. Write about the things your customers and visitors want to read about. Entertain and inform them via great articles. Build a base of regular visitors, either by writing great content or focusing on that niche product range people like so much. If your website is impressive enough, other sites will start liking you. Your rankings will go up. And by Google’s grace, you’ll reach that top spot in Google the right way. Of course, you can get guidance from any SEO agency that is realistic in this! It’s not a trick; it’s Seriously Effortful Optimization.

Do I have to write a unique product description for all my 10,000 product pages?

I had my share of these type of SEO questions: does every page needs to be unique? I have thousands of pages/products! Actually, yes. If you want to rank with every single page of your website, you need to create unique pages, to prevent duplicate content. You need to optimize every single page in that case. It’ll probably leave you wondering if you have chosen the right approach to optimize your website. You probably did not.

What should I have done?

If your website has this many pages, site structure and taxonomies become very important. I usually use a DIY store as an example. You probably have 100 product pages with screws. How to optimize every single product page!? A screw is a screw, right!? In that case, it will pay off much more to optimize your category page. Make sure that page has sufficient and great content, so that you have a shot at ranking for that more generic keyword.

By optimizing the taxonomy page, and placing that in the right position in your site structure, you help every single product page that fits into that very category. If you optimize your filter options and search options along the way, you are saving you a lot of hassle!

Can I use more than one H1 on a page?

Yes, you can use more than one H1 on a page. If you take the HTML5 guidelines as a rule, every block element could or perhaps should have a semantic structure in headings, starting at H1 and working towards H6 if needed. That means multiple H1’s can indeed be added to a page.

SEO questions: why one H1? One captain on a ship, really.

The question that remains is whether that would be the best SEO practice. If we add an H1 to every single block on a page, which heading would be the most important heading of that page? Does it make sense to make every blog title on your site’s blog archive page an H1? Would a search engine be able to digest it like that? It probably can. But every H1 loses a bit of value with the addition of the next one, in my opinion.

What should I have done?

Establish on what (focus) keyword you want to focus on that page, and create one compelling H1 as the main title of that page. If that is an archive page, use the main keyword and create a title around that. Use H2 for all the different article titles that are listed on that page.

One H1 per page isn’t a strict rule, but for SEO it makes all the sense in the world. If you want to read up on headings, please visit this page: Headings and why you should use them.

Do I still need meta keywords?

C’mon, people. No, there are no stupid SEO questions. Really, there are none. But this one is asked so many times, that by now the question should be in an SEO museum. Please understand that there might be variations, like meta news_keywords, but the meta keywords tag isn’t used by Google anymore for rankings – and hasn’t been for a long time.

What should I have done?

Focus on a great title, add a very nice, inviting meta description and write awesome content. And forget about (putting effort into) these meta keywords.

After installing your SEO plugin, can I lean back and wait for traffic to come in?

Ok, let’s finish off with a question related to our SEO plugin. There are still a lot of people that install Yoast SEO and then forget about SEO altogether. In a land of fairytales, there might be such a tool or app that magically get you to the very top of the wizard’s search engine, where long tail strategies refer to Rapunzel’s hair.

In the real world, there are no magic tricks that help you rank better. You should do everything you can to create an attractive website for both users and search engines. Our SEO plugin provides a convenient, easy way to optimize your website. But it needs you to do the optimizing.

What should I have done?

Install our plugin and follow the steps in our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO. We help you configure the plugin, and will show you where the plugin helps you optimize your pages, your content. Monitor your website in Google Analytics and Google Search Console so that you will know a) if your efforts pay off, and b) if anything out-of-the-ordinary happens to your website. If so, rinse and repeat. Go back to the page at hand, use our analysis en see what you can do to improve a specific page.

Any more SEO questions?

Of course, there are more SEO questions that you’d like to ask. We have a packed SEO knowledge base for you to browse, with loads of information about SEO and our plugins. We have an SEO blog that is updated multiple times a week with fresh and updated content. If you want a deep-dive in SEO, feel free to browse our (paid) SEO courses. There is always something to learn!

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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Analytics: 5 tips to measure your Black Friday success

Black Friday is almost here. The day of the year where people go wild and spend loads of money in stores and online shops. As an owner of an online business, you want people to spend their money at your store. So you want to draw a lot of visitors to your site and seduce them with an awesome discount. But how do you know if your Black Friday campaign was a success? Which steps do you need to take to make sure you can measure that success in Google Analytics? Read this post to find out!

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Black Friday extras

You’re probably going to do something special during BFCM weekend. Something extra, more than the usual. You might publish more posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Perhaps you’re dedicating a special newsletter to the Black Friday sale; you might even send out an extra one. What about your website? Will you add a banner throughout the website? Add a countdown clock? A pop-up? Write down all the things you’re planning to do during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and think about how you’re going to measure them.

1. Measurement plan

In comes the measurement plan. It’s vital to know if you can measure the things you’d like to measure and if you have the data to compare it with. If you already have a measurement plan, grab it and refine it. If not, get some piece of paper and a pen and write down the following:

  1. Your business objective for this Black Friday sale
  2. The strategies of your business objective
  3. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
  4. Set targets per KPI
  5. Identify segments

There are a couple of sources you can consult for more detailed information: this post from Avinash Kaushik about the measurement model, a Google Analytics YouTube tutorial about creating a measurement plan and these two posts with practical examples of measurement plans: one about Black Friday and one about a charity website.

Once you’ve clarified the above, you need to have an implementation plan so that everything you want to track, is implemented. You might need to ask a developer for certain things. But please keep in mind, measuring something is way, way better than measuring nothing. So if you find this a bit scary, don’t set the bar too high for yourself and measure the things that are easy for you to do.

2. Check your eCommerce tracking

If you own an online shop, you want to gather eCommerce data. Check if you have information about your eCommerce Conversion Rate, the shopping behavior, product performance and revenue.

ecommerce data in Google Analytics

If you do not see this kind of data in Google Analytics, you might need to implement eCommerce tracking. For more information, read this guide about enhanced eCommerce tracking. Knowing what the shopping behavior, checkout behavior and so on is before Black Friday, gives you the opportunity to compare this data with the data you’re collecting during Black Friday. And that gives you insight into whether or not your Black Friday campaign has been successful.

3. Check goals and funnels

To be able to analyze your visitor’s behavior on your site even more, you can implement goals. You can set a goal for everytime someone pressed the ‘add-to-cart’ button. Having a goal with a funnel for your checkout process is also vital. It calculates a goal conversion rate for the entire checkout and shows where people drop off in the funnel. During Black Friday, having this data will allow you to check for technical issues. If you see a sudden drop in the conversion rate or drop-offs, that’s a sign that tells you to dig in further. Check if payment options are working or if you have downtime.

Implement BFCM events in Google Analytics

If you decide to add banners and/or pop-ups or other elements on your websites where people can click on, don’t forget to implement events. Add goals to those events so you can analyze them in Google Analytics. You do want to know if people actually click on them, right? Adding events take in a bit of extra work. Luckily, Google Tag Manager makes implementing events a lot easier. There are a lot of tutorials on the world wide web that show you how to create events. One of my favorites is the video tutorial by Measureschool.

4. Special BFCM UTM tags

To identify all your Black Friday efforts on other sources such as social media and in your newsletters, you can’t live without the proper UTM tags. Using these UTM tags consistently throughout the entire Black Friday sale is key to effectively analyze the success of all your marketing efforts on other websites than yours. A couple of examples:

1a. Promoted post on Facebook
https://yoast.com/shop/#utm_source=Social&utm_medium=FacebookAd&utm_campaign=BlackFriday

1b. Regular post on Facebook
https://yoast.com/shop/#utm_source=Social&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=BlackFriday

2a. Text link in Newsletter
https://yoast.com/shop/#utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email-11-24&utm_campaign=BlackFriday&utm_content=textlink

2b. Button in Newsletter
https://yoast.com/shop/#utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email-11-24&utm_campaign=BlackFriday&utm_content=button

As you can see, I used BlackFriday as the campaign UTM tag. Use the utm_campaign=BlackFriday tag on all sources you’re using that point to your website and have a BlackFriday sales purpose. During and after the sale you can get insights from Google Analytics to see if people from the Black Friday campaign bought anything.

Black Friday campaigns in Google Analytics

Keep an eye on this campaign during the sale, if it’s not going according to plan, it will allow you to optimize your efforts during the sale. You can do a lot of cool things with this campaign; I described all of this in a post I wrote about custom campaigns.

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5. Check Google Analytics stats during Black Friday

Google Analytics is great for keeping track if the sale is going right. You can check on a lot of things. Keep an eye on real-time stats, if you see a sudden drop in the number of users on your site, perhaps your site’s down or down in a specific country. You can also check your cart URL and checkout URL in the real-time analysis. If you see a lot of folks there, but no sales coming in, your checkout might not be working. If you just sent out a newsletter, and you see no-one coming to your site from a newsletter, perhaps you’ve added a broken link. The real-time functionality in Google Analytics is your friend here.

Conclusion

If you want to know if your Black Friday sale has been a success and want to know what made it into a success, you need data to compare the data you’re collecting during the sale with. Make sure you’re currently tracking all the data you need that makes you able to analyze your visitor’s behavior on your site. Start with writing down a measurement and implementation plan and check if all tracking is in place. After the sale is over, compare the data of the BFCM sale with your prior data and check what worked and what didn’t work so you’ll know what to do next time! You don’t have much time, so get crackin’! Happy analyzing!

Read more: ‘Analytics basics: Which posts and pages perform best?’ »

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