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Open any of the tiles below to find a plethora of information on these subjects.  Links to the originating articles are included, but content is copied below.

For extra links and updates to the content, go to the links provided for each subject.

Focus Keyword

From: https://yoast.com/focus-keyword/

How To Choose The Right Focus Keyword

In the Yoast SEO plugin, you’ll find a focus keyphrase input field for every page on your site. Here, you can enter the keyword or keyphrase you’d like the page to rank for in Google. If you do, Yoast SEO will run a check on the content of that page to see if search engines will recognize what your page is about. Here, we’ll explain what the purpose of a focus keyphrase is and how to choose it well.

Table of contents

Looking for keyphrase suggestions? When you’ve set a focus keyword in Yoast SEO, you can now click on ‘Get related keyphrases’ and our SEMrush integration will help you find high-performing keyphrases!

What is a focus keyword?

The focus keyword or keyphrase is the search term that you want a page or post to rank for most. When people search for that phrase, they should find you. If you set a focus keyphrase for a page with Yoast SEO, the plugin evaluates the page’s content and provides feedback on how to improve the content to increase the chances of ranking higher for that search term.

You’ll find the input field for your focus keyphrase in the Yoast SEO sidebar on the right side of your editor. If you don’t see the Yoast SEO sidebar, click on the Yoast icon on the top right of your screen first.

The focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO sidebar

You can also find the focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO meta box below the post editor:

The focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO meta box

You’ll find the feedback to improve your content in the SEO analysis tab. If you amend your page with this feedback, it will be easier for search engines to recognize what your post or page is about.

Check out this video to see how it works:

 

Why a focus keyphrase?

Regularly adding quality content to your website or blog is a good SEO strategy. Google sees that your website is active because you add new information and you increase the volume of your content.

But randomly adding content to your site isn’t very useful. You have to craft a keyword strategy, and based on that strategy you should create high-quality content your audience is looking for. When you write those articles, it’s important to optimize them for the keyphrases you’re aiming at. And that’s what Yoast SEO helps you with.

How to choose a focus keyphrase

In our view, there are at least three things you should do to determine which keywords or keyphrases you should optimize your blog posts for:

  1. Find a focus keyword people search for
  2. Research the search volume
  3. Google your keyphrase

Let’s elaborate on these steps a bit:

1. Find a focus keyword people search for

As mentioned above, your keyword strategy should have given you some idea of what you want to write about. If you don’t have a keyword strategy yet, you should really create one. You can read our ultimate guide to keyword research or take our keyword research training course if you need help to find your perfect keywords and keyphrases.

Long-tail keywords

If you want a post or page to rank, you can increase your chance of success by aiming for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords often exist of more words and are less searched for than very popular ‘head’ keywords. But less popular also means less competition and the chances to convert are usually higher as you can read in this guide to content SEO.

Tools that help you find long-tail and related keyphrases

When you’ve done your keyword research and you already have an idea of what you want to write about, you can use different tools to find long-tail variants of that keyphrase or related keyphrases. For instance, you can use a tool like Answer the Public to find which questions people have about a particular topic. This will give you loads of new insights and inspiration for new posts.

But, since Yoast SEO 15.1 we’ve made this even easier for you! In the Yoast SEO plugin, we now offer a brand new feature: a SEMrush integration to easily find related keyphrases that people search for. So, when you know what to write about you can click on ‘Get related keyphrases’ below your focus keyphrase and find out what terms people search for and even learn more about volume and trends:

Find related keyphrases in Yoast SEO with the SEMrush integration

2. Research the search volume for your keyphrase

Once you have found a long-tail search term you want to rank for, you should put some effort into discovering whether or not there are many searches for that keyword or phrase – the search volume. This use to require quite some effort: researching search terms in Google Adwords or Google Trends. But now you can easily get related or long-tail keyphrases in Yoast SEO and find information about search volume (how often it is searched for in a specified period of time) and trends (how that changed over time) too! Now you can easily compare the possible related keyphrases and decide on which ones to focus in your current or other posts!

Optimizing your post for related keyphrases can improve the quality of your content: it will make it more complete and easier to understand for Google. If you want to set one of these related keyphrases for your posts you can do so with one click in Yoast SEO Premium. After that, go back to the post editor and optimize your post for the new related keyphrase.

In addition to setting related keyphrases and synonymsYoast SEO Premium better recognizes your keyphrase when it’s in plural or past tense, for instance. Google is smart, get an analysis that’s just as smart!

Check your posts that already rank

If you already have some (blog) posts that rank well for good terms, you will know how many visitors these posts attract. Using Google Trends to compare the focus keyphrases of older posts (which you can view the statistics for) with the focus keyphrase you have in mind for your new post, could give you some idea about the potential traffic this new keyphrase could bring. Make sure to choose older posts that are most similar to the post you’re planning to write: if you’re planning to choose a long-tail keyword, compare posts with long-tail keywords as well.

For instance, this post about the focus keyphrase could be compared with a post about snippet previews, a related feature of the Yoast SEO plugin we already wrote about:

Compare posts to find out more about the potential traffic

As you can see the amount of traffic is a bit lower but comparable, we know the search traffic to our snippet preview post is reasonably good, so we know it’s worth optimizing for. Doing this to compare your old focus keyphrase or keyword and the one you want to use will give you some insights about the prospects for your focus keyphrase.

Another good way to use this is when you are considering a number of (long-tail) focus keywords. Because it will easily show you which search term will have the highest search volume compared to another. Therefore, it will help you decide which long-tail keyword is most commonly used in search.

For additional tools, see this post by Marieke about keyword research tools.

3. Google your proposed focus keyword!

Apart from knowing which search terms are actually used by people, you need to know whether or not your idea for your post or page fits the needs and expectations of the people who use these search terms. You need to find out what the search intent is. One way to find out whether your content meets people’s needs is to Google your proposed (sets of) keywords yourself.

Check the search engine result pages

Take the time to look at the search engine result pages (SERPs) Are the articles in the Google results of similar character to your article? Could your article fit the results shown in these search pages? If you decide to write your blog post or page, while optimizing for this exact focus keyword, you are aiming to get your post amongst these results.

The type of content shown on the search results will help you decide on what kind of content to create: does Google show product pages or blog posts? Or perhaps videos, images? If there’s one dominant type, Google probably “thinks” this is the type of content people are looking for, so it’s worth investing time in creating that type of content too. Of course, the results change when the search intent change. Remember: you’ll have to beat the other search results, so only do this when you’re sure you can create something truly outstanding and useful for your audience!

Content of the results pages

Be sure to use the content of the result pages as an inspiration for your blog post. Are there any useful ideas? We are NOT encouraging you to copy content, merely to see whether you perhaps missed some information or arguments for your post or page. And, most importantly: How can you make sure your post will stand out? In what way could your post be better, funnier, more original than the post presently displayed in the result pages? Try to come up with content that will make the audience click and share!

Check out social media and forums

Another great tip: Check what people ask and have to say about this topic on social media and various online forums. This will probably give you loads of input for your post or page. You can directly address the questions people have and the difficulties they encounter regarding this topic. On top of this, it will help you use the right wording, which is crucial if you want to reach your audience.

Don’t forget to repeat your research now and then!

Remember that these search suggestions change all the time. The suggestions will often be tuned to what you’ve been searching for before. When we searched for the term “focus keyword” some time ago, this was the suggest output:

The suggest results for Focus keyword in Google Suggest

Later on, the output showed this:

focus keyword search november 2014

Suggest changes based on the problems people have, so monitoring it for important keywords makes sense. New results can give you input for your post or other, but related posts.

Yoast SEO checks the quality of your keyphrase

A good focus keyword for your post is essential if it needs to stand a chance in the search engines. Therefore Yoast SEO checks some aspects of your keyphrase. First of all, we check the length of your keyphrase, to make sure your keyphrase isn’t too long. In addition to this, Yoast SEO checks whether the keyphrase only consists of function words.

The function word check in Yoast SEO

Function words (words such as theaand, or, have) carry very little meaning. They don’t help Google figure out the topic of the copy. We warn you if you only have words like these in your keyphrase. Even though it’s not very likely to come up with such a keyphrase yourself, it can happen that you were distracted while typing in your keyphrase. For instance, you could have just typed [the] instead of [the best movies of 2020]. To prevent keeping your focus keyphrase like this, Yoast SEO will show a warning with a grey bullet in the SEO analysis of your post and help you stay focused!

In rare cases, you might actually mean to rank for a phrase that consists of function words only. For instance, if you are writing a post about a meme “Why would you do that?”. In exceptional cases like this, you can avoid getting a red bullet by adding a double quote before and after your keyphrase. Doing so, our tool will just look for the exact match of this phrase and the warning will disappear.

Read more about the function word check in Yoast SEO.

Should every page have a focus keyphrase?

People often ask us whether their about page or contact page should have a focus keyword, and, if so, what should it be?

The answer is easy: not every page needs a focus keyword. Your contact page should be easily reachable, it might, for instance, need to rank for “<company name> address.” That probably doesn’t make sense as a focus keyword though, and it’s perfectly fine to leave it empty.

Also, ask yourself: Do I want this post to rank in the long term? Some posts, for instance, temporary announcements, are probably not worth optimizing either.

Conclusion and further readings

Choosing a perfect focus keyword or keyphrase is not an exact science. You should aim for a combination of words that are actually used by a search audience. Aim for a keyphrase that is relatively high in volume and one that will suit your audience.

We have lots more articles on this subject: you can read about keyword researchcontent writing and improving your site structure. We’ve also combined all of these different topics into an SEO copywriting course

 

Open Graphs

From: https://ogp.me/

Introduction

The Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph. For instance, this is used on Facebook to allow any web page to have the same functionality as any other object on Facebook.

While many different technologies and schemas exist and could be combined together, there isn’t a single technology which provides enough information to richly represent any web page within the social graph. The Open Graph protocol builds on these existing technologies and gives developers one thing to implement. Developer simplicity is a key goal of the Open Graph protocol which has informed many of the technical design decisions.


Basic Metadata

To turn your web pages into graph objects, you need to add basic metadata to your page. We’ve based the initial version of the protocol on RDFa which means that you’ll place additional <meta> tags in the <head> of your web page. The four required properties for every page are:

  • og:title – The title of your object as it should appear within the graph, e.g., “The Rock”.
  • og:type – The type of your object, e.g., “video.movie”. Depending on the type you specify, other properties may also be required.
  • og:image – An image URL which should represent your object within the graph.
  • og:url – The canonical URL of your object that will be used as its permanent ID in the graph, e.g., “https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117500/”.

As an example, the following is the Open Graph protocol markup for The Rock on IMDB:

<html prefix="og: https://ogp.me/ns#">
<head>
<title>The Rock (1996)</title>
<meta property="og:title" content="The Rock" />
<meta property="og:type" content="video.movie" />
<meta property="og:url" content="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117500/" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://ia.media-imdb.com/images/rock.jpg" />
...
</head>
...
</html>

Optional Metadata

The following properties are optional for any object and are generally recommended:

  • og:audio – A URL to an audio file to accompany this object.
  • og:description – A one to two sentence description of your object.
  • og:determiner – The word that appears before this object’s title in a sentence. An enum of (a, an, the, “”, auto). If auto is chosen, the consumer of your data should chose between “a” or “an”. Default is “” (blank).
  • og:locale – The locale these tags are marked up in. Of the format language_TERRITORY. Default is en_US.
  • og:locale:alternate – An array of other locales this page is available in.
  • og:site_name – If your object is part of a larger web site, the name which should be displayed for the overall site. e.g., “IMDb”.
  • og:video – A URL to a video file that complements this object.

For example (line-break solely for display purposes):

<meta property="og:audio" content="https://example.com/bond/theme.mp3" />
<meta property="og:description" 
  content="Sean Connery found fame and fortune as the
           suave, sophisticated British agent, James Bond." />
<meta property="og:determiner" content="the" />
<meta property="og:locale" content="en_GB" />
<meta property="og:locale:alternate" content="fr_FR" />
<meta property="og:locale:alternate" content="es_ES" />
<meta property="og:site_name" content="IMDb" />
<meta property="og:video" content="https://example.com/bond/trailer.swf" />

The RDF schema (in Turtle) can be found at ogp.me/ns.


Structured Properties

Some properties can have extra metadata attached to them. These are specified in the same way as other metadata with property and content, but the property will have extra :.

The og:image property has some optional structured properties:

  • og:image:url – Identical to og:image.
  • og:image:secure_url – An alternate url to use if the webpage requires HTTPS.
  • og:image:type – A MIME type for this image.
  • og:image:width – The number of pixels wide.
  • og:image:height – The number of pixels high.
  • og:image:alt – A description of what is in the image (not a caption). If the page specifies an og:image it should specify og:image:alt.

A full image example:

<meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/ogp.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image:secure_url" content="https://secure.example.com/ogp.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image:type" content="image/jpeg" />
<meta property="og:image:width" content="400" />
<meta property="og:image:height" content="300" />
<meta property="og:image:alt" content="A shiny red apple with a bite taken out" />

The og:video tag has the identical tags as og:image. Here is an example:

<meta property="og:video" content="https://example.com/movie.swf" />
<meta property="og:video:secure_url" content="https://secure.example.com/movie.swf" />
<meta property="og:video:type" content="application/x-shockwave-flash" />
<meta property="og:video:width" content="400" />
<meta property="og:video:height" content="300" />

The og:audio tag only has the first 3 properties available (since size doesn’t make sense for sound):

<meta property="og:audio" content="https://example.com/sound.mp3" />
<meta property="og:audio:secure_url" content="https://secure.example.com/sound.mp3" />
<meta property="og:audio:type" content="audio/mpeg" />

Arrays

If a tag can have multiple values, just put multiple versions of the same <meta> tag on your page. The first tag (from top to bottom) is given preference during conflicts.

<meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/rock.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/rock2.jpg" />

Put structured properties after you declare their root tag. Whenever another root element is parsed, that structured property is considered to be done and another one is started.

For example:

<meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/rock.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image:width" content="300" />
<meta property="og:image:height" content="300" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/rock2.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://example.com/rock3.jpg" />
<meta property="og:image:height" content="1000" />

means there are 3 images on this page, the first image is 300x300, the middle one has unspecified dimensions, and the last one is 1000px tall.


Object Types

In order for your object to be represented within the graph, you need to specify its type. This is done using the og:type property:

<meta property="og:type" content="website" />

When the community agrees on the schema for a type, it is added to the list of global types. All other objects in the type system are CURIEs of the form

<head prefix="my_namespace: https://example.com/ns#">
<meta property="og:type" content="my_namespace:my_type" />

The global types are grouped into verticals. Each vertical has its own namespace. The og:type values for a namespace are always prefixed with the namespace and then a period. This is to reduce confusion with user-defined namespaced types which always have colons in them.

Music

og:type values:

music.song

  • music:duration – integer >=1 – The song’s length in seconds.
  • music:album – music.album array – The album this song is from.
  • music:album:disc – integer >=1 – Which disc of the album this song is on.
  • music:album:track – integer >=1 – Which track this song is.
  • music:musician – profile array – The musician that made this song.

music.album

  • music:song – music.song – The song on this album.
  • music:song:disc – integer >=1 – The same as music:album:disc but in reverse.
  • music:song:track – integer >=1 – The same as music:album:track but in reverse.
  • music:musician – profile – The musician that made this song.
  • music:release_date – datetime – The date the album was released.

music.playlist

  • music:song – Identical to the ones on music.album
  • music:song:disc
  • music:song:track
  • music:creator – profile – The creator of this playlist.

music.radio_station

  • music:creator – profile – The creator of this station.

Video

og:type values:

video.movie

  • video:actor – profile array – Actors in the movie.
  • video:actor:role – string – The role they played.
  • video:director – profile array – Directors of the movie.
  • video:writer – profile array – Writers of the movie.
  • video:duration – integer >=1 – The movie’s length in seconds.
  • video:release_date – datetime – The date the movie was released.
  • video:tag – string array – Tag words associated with this movie.

video.episode

  • video:actor – Identical to video.movie
  • video:actor:role
  • video:director
  • video:writer
  • video:duration
  • video:release_date
  • video:tag
  • video:series – video.tv_show – Which series this episode belongs to.

video.tv_show

A multi-episode TV show. The metadata is identical to video.movie.

video.other

A video that doesn’t belong in any other category. The metadata is identical to video.movie.

No Vertical

These are globally defined objects that just don’t fit into a vertical but yet are broadly used and agreed upon.

og:type values:

article – Namespace URI: https://ogp.me/ns/article#

  • article:published_time – datetime – When the article was first published.
  • article:modified_time – datetime – When the article was last changed.
  • article:expiration_time – datetime – When the article is out of date after.
  • article:author – profile array – Writers of the article.
  • article:section – string – A high-level section name. E.g. Technology
  • article:tag – string array – Tag words associated with this article.

book – Namespace URI: https://ogp.me/ns/book#

  • book:author – profile array – Who wrote this book.
  • book:isbn – string – The ISBN
  • book:release_date – datetime – The date the book was released.
  • book:tag – string array – Tag words associated with this book.

profile – Namespace URI: https://ogp.me/ns/profile#

  • profile:first_name – string – A name normally given to an individual by a parent or self-chosen.
  • profile:last_name – string – A name inherited from a family or marriage and by which the individual is commonly known.
  • profile:username – string – A short unique string to identify them.
  • profile:gender – enum(male, female) – Their gender.

website – Namespace URI: https://ogp.me/ns/website#

No additional properties other than the basic ones. Any non-marked up webpage should be treated as og:type website.


Types

The following types are used when defining attributes in Open Graph protocol.

Type Description Literals
Boolean A Boolean represents a true or false value true, false, 1, 0
DateTime A DateTime represents a temporal value composed of a date (year, month, day) and an optional time component (hours, minutes) ISO 8601
Enum A type consisting of bounded set of constant string values (enumeration members). A string value that is a member of the enumeration
Float A 64-bit signed floating point number All literals that conform to the following formats:

1.234
-1.234
1.2e3
-1.2e3
7E-10

Integer A 32-bit signed integer. In many languages integers over 32-bits become floats, so we limit Open Graph protocol for easy multi-language use. All literals that conform to the following formats:

1234
-123

String A sequence of Unicode characters All literals composed of Unicode characters with no escape characters
URL A sequence of Unicode characters that identify an Internet resource. All valid URLs that utilize the https:// or https:// protocols

Discussion and support

You can discuss the Open Graph Protocol in the Facebook group or on the developer mailing list. It is currently being consumed by Facebook (see their documentation), Google (see their documentation), and mixi. It is being published by IMDb, Microsoft, NHL, Posterous, Rotten Tomatoes, TIME, Yelp, and many many others.


Implementations

The open source community has developed a number of parsers and publishing tools. Let the Facebook group know if you’ve built something awesome too!

Metadata and SEO: Link Rel Metadata

From: https://yoast.com/metadata-and-seo-part-2-link-rel-metadata/

In the first post of our metadata series, I discussed the meta tags in the <head> of your site. But there’s more metadata in the <head> that can influence the SEO of your site. In this second post, we’ll dive into link rel metadata. You can use link rel metadata to instruct browsers and Google, for example to point them to the AMP version of a page or to prevent duplicate content issues. The link rel tags come in a lot of flavors. I’d like to address the most important ones here.

Use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content

Every website should use rel=canonical to prevent duplicate content and point Google to the original source of that content. rel=canonical is one of those metadata elements that has an immediate influence on your site’s SEO. If done wrong, it might ruin it. An example: we have seen sites that had the canonical of all pages pointed to the homepage. That is basically telling Google that for all the content on your website, you just want the homepage to rank.
If done right, you could give props to another website for writing an article that you republished.

If you want to read up on rel=canonical, please read this article: Rel=canonical: the ultimate guide.

Add rel=amphtml to point search engines to your AMP pages

In order to link a page to its AMP variant, use the rel=amphtml. AMP is a variation of your desktop page, designed for faster loading and better user experience on a mobile device. It was introduced by Google, and to be honest, we like it. It seriously improves the mobile user experience.

So be sure to set up an AMP site and link the AMP pages in your head section. If you have a WordPress site, adding AMP pages is a piece of cake. You can simply install the AMP plugin by Automattic and you’ll have AMP pages and the rel=amphtml links right after that.

If you’d like to read up about AMP, be sure to check our AMP archive.

dns-prefetch for faster loading

By telling the browser in advance about a number of locations where it can find certain files it needs to render a page, you simply make it easier and faster for the browser to load your page, or (elements from) a page you link to. If implemented right, DNS prefetching will make sure a browser knows the IP address of the site linked and is ready to show the requested page.

An example:
<link rel="dns-prefetch" href="https://yoast.com/">

Please note that if the website you are prefetching has performance issues, the speed gains might be little, or none. This could even depend on the time of day. Monitor your prefetch URLs from time to time.

What about rel=author?

Rel=author has no effect whatsoever at the moment. It hasn’t had any effect we know of for quite a while actually, as Joost already mentioned this in October of 2015. You never know what use Google might come up with for it, but for now, we’re not pushing it in our plugin. It was used to point to the author of the post, giving the article more or less authority depending on how well-known an author was. At the time, this was reflected in the search results pages as well (it’s not anymore). No need to include it in your template anymore.

Other rel elements include your stylesheets (make sure Google can use these) and you can set icons for a variety of devices. SEO impact of these is rather low or simply not existing.

Is there more?

So we discussed meta tags and link rel metadata in the <head> . Is there even more metadata that affects SEO? Yes there is! In our next metadata post, I’ll explore social metadata, like OpenGraph and Twitter Cards. In addition to that, we’ll go intohreflang, an essential asset for site owners that serve more than one country or language with their website. Stand by for more!

Metadata and SEO: "Social"-ization, Internationalization & More

From:

Metadata and SEO part 3: social, internationalization and more

Literally, metadata is data that says something about other data. You can use particular metadata to send information about a webpage to a search engine or a social media channel, and thereby improve your SEO. In the first two posts of this metadata series, we discussed meta tags in <head>of your site and link rel metadata. In this last episode, we’ll scrutinize on metadata that can improve the sharing experience on social media. And last, but definitely not least, we’ll describe why metadata likehreflang declarations are a necessity if your business serves multiple languages and/or countries.

Social metadata

We have written about Open Graph and Twitter Cards before. These tags, or this information, is definitely metadata. It will help you tell social networks like Facebook and Twitter what the page at hand is about in an orderly, summarized way. It will allow you to control the way your articles or pages are shared.

OpenGraph

OpenGraph is a standard used by a number of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. If you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, these tags are added to your page automatically, and of course, you can control the contents of these OpenGraph tags (in the social section in our meta box below on edit pages).

Twitter Cards

The same goes for Twitter Cards. They add metadata to your pages that are convenient for Twitter to read and understand. Our plugin adds Twitter Card metadata as well. If there is no Twitter Card data, Twitter will fallback to OpenGraph data, but you obviously want to make things as simple as possible for that Twitter.

If you’d like a preview of how your page, shared on either Twitter or Facebook would look like, please check our Yoast SEO premium plugin, as that one adds these social previews right in your WordPress backend.

But wait, there is more important metadata!

If you thought that all the things previously mentioned are all the SEO related metadata for your website, think again.

hreflang tags to indicate other languages

For those of you that have multilingual sites, this one is really, really important. If you have a site or page that is served in more than one language, be sure to add hreflang tags to your page.

With hreflang tags, you can indicate the language variations of the page at hand. That looks like this:

<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" 
      hreflang="en" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" 
      hreflang="en-gb" />
<link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/de/" 
      hreflang="de" />

As you can see, these can be used for variations of the ‘same’ language as well, like the British English in the second line. Note that hreflang isn’t a substitute for the rel=canonical we discussed. Be safe, implement both. More information on how to implement hreflang can be found here.

Alt tags

If you think about it, any extra attribute you assign to an image, like the alt or title tag, is metadata. Google uses it to scan the page and see what’s on there, so be sure to add these alt and title tags and optimize ’em.

Microdata for breadcrumbs

For a better understanding of your site’s structure, you should add some kind of microdata to your breadcrumbs. That can be done by adding schema.org data for breadcrumbs, for instance by JSON-LDRDFa is another option to add this type of metadata to your website. Again, install Yoast SEO for WordPress and this is taken care of.

Language declaration for the page at hand

Let’s wrap this long list of metadata up with another language related metadata element. At the very top of your HTML, we find the, indeed, html tag. This one wraps all the code of your <head> and <body> and can contain the language of the page at hand. That is done like this:

<html lang="en">

Makes sense, right. Some might say that adding a meta tag for Content-Language is also an option, but following the W3C guidelines, that meta tag should not be used anymore. Use the lang declaration in the html tag instead.

That concludes this series with a lengthy list of metadata you can use to tweak your SEO. I am confident you can come up with even more metadata, as there is plenty. Feel free to leave your additions in the comments!

Rel=Canonical

From: https://yoast.com/rel-canonical/

A canonical URL lets you tell search engines that certain similar URLs are actually the same. Because sometimes you have products or content that can be found on multiple URLs — or even multiple websites. By using canonical URLs (HTML link tags with the attribute rel=canonical) you can have these on your site without harming your rankings. In this ultimate guide, I’ll discuss what canonical URLs are, when to use them, and how to prevent or fix a few common mistakes!

The rel=canonical element, often called the “canonical link”, is an HTML element that helps webmasters prevent duplicate content issues. It does so by specifying the “canonical URL”, the “preferred” version of a web page – the original source, even. And this improves your site’s SEO.

The idea is simple. If you have several versions of the same content, you pick one “canonical” version and point the search engines at it. This solves the duplicate content problem where search engines don’t know which version to show in their results.

The SEO benefit of rel=canonical

Choosing a proper canonical URL for every set of similar URLs improves the SEO of your site. This is because the search engine knows which version is canonical, and can count all the links pointing at the different versions as links to the canonical version. In concept, setting a canonical is similar to a 301 redirect, only without the actual redirecting.

The history of rel=canonical

The canonical link element was introduced by Google, Bing, and Yahoo! in February 2009. If you’re interested in its history, I would recommend Matt Cutts’ post from 2009. This post gives you some background and links to different interesting articles. Or watch the video of Matt introducing the canonical link element. Because, although the idea is simple, the specifics of how to use it are often a bit more complex.

The process of canonicalization

When you have several choices for a product’s URL, canonicalization is the process of picking one of them. Luckily, it will be obvious in many cases: one URL will be a better choice than others. But in some cases, it might not be as obvious. This is nothing to worry about. Even then it’s still pretty simple: just pick one! Not canonicalizing your URLs is always worse than canonicalizing your URLs.

How to set canonical URLs

Let’s assume you have two versions of the same page, each with exactly – 100% – the same content. The only difference is that they’re in separate sections of your site. And because of that the background color and the active menu item are different – but that’s it. Both versions have been linked to from other sites, so the content itself is clearly valuable. So which version should search engines show in results?

For example, these could be their URLs:

  • https://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/
  • https://example.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/

A correct example of using rel=canonical

The situation described above occurs fairly often, especially in a lot of e-commerce systems. A product can have several different URLs depending on how you got there. But this is exactly what rel=canonical was invented for. In this case, you would apply rel=canonical as follows:

  1. Pick one of your two pages as the canonical version. This should be the version you think is the most important. If you don’t care, pick the one with the most links or visitors. When all these factors are equal, flip a coin. You just need to choose.
  2. Add a rel=canonical link from the non-canonical page to the canonical one. So if we picked the shortest URL as our canonical URL, the other URL would link to the shortest URL in the <head> section of the page – like this:
    <link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/" />

    It’s as easy as that! Nothing more, nothing less.

What this does is “merge” the two pages into one from a search engine’s perspective. It’s a “soft redirect”, without actually redirecting the user. Links to both URLs now count as the single, canonical version of the URL.

Want to know more about the use of rel=canonical on category and product pages of your eCommerce site? I also discuss this topic in this Ask Yoast video.

Setting the canonical URL in Yoast SEO

Our Yoast SEO WordPress plugin lets you change the canonical URL of several page types in the plugin settings. You only need to do this if you want to change the canonical to something different from the current page’s URL. Yoast SEO already renders the correct canonical URL for almost any page type in a WordPress install.

For posts, pages, and custom post types, you can edit the canonical URL in the advanced tab of the Yoast SEO metabox:

where to set canonical url in Yoast SEO
Setting a canonical URL in Yoast SEO

For categories, tags and other taxonomy terms, you can change the canonical URL in the same place in the Yoast SEO metabox. If you have other advanced use cases, you can also use the wpseo_canonical filter to change the Yoast SEO output.

When should you use canonical URLs?

301 redirect or canonical

If you are unsure whether to do a 301 redirect or set a canonical, what should you do? The answer is simple: you should always do a redirect, unless there are technical reasons not to. If you can’t redirect because that would harm the user experience or be otherwise problematic, then set a canonical URL.

Should a page have a self-referencing canonical URL?

In the image above, we link the non-canonical page to the canonical version. But should a page set a rel=canonical for itself? This question is a much-debated topic amongst SEOs. At Yoast, we strongly recommend having a canonical link element on every page and Google has confirmed that’s best. That’s because most CMS’s will allow URL parameters without changing the content. So all of these URLs would show the same content:

  • https://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/
  • https://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/?isnt=it-awesome
  • https://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/?cmpgn=twitter
  • https://example.com/wordpress/seo-plugin/?cmpgn=facebook

The issue is that if you don’t have a self-referencing canonical on the page that points to the cleanest version of the URL, you risk being hit by this. And if you don’t do it yourself, someone else could do it to you and cause a duplicate content issue. So adding a self-referencing canonical to URLs across your site is a good “defensive” SEO move. Luckily, our Yoast SEO plugin takes care of this for you.

Cross-domain canonical URLs

Perhaps you have the same piece of content on several domains. There are sites or blogs that republish articles from other websites on their own, as they feel the content is relevant for their users. In the past, we’ve had websites republishing articles from Yoast.com as well (with express permission).

But if you had looked at the HTML of every one of those articles you’d found a rel=canonical link pointing right back to our original article. This means all the links pointing to their version of the article count towards the ranking of our canonical version. They get to use our content to please their audience, and we get a clear benefit from it too. This way everybody wins!

Faulty canonical URLs: common issues

There are many examples out there of how a wrong rel=canonical implementation can lead to huge issues. I’ve seen several sites where the canonical on their homepage pointed at an article, only to see their home page disappear from search results. But that’s not all. There are other things you should never do with rel=canonical. Here are the most important ones:

  • Don’t canonicalize a paginated archive to page 1. The rel=canonical on page 2 should point to page 2. If you point it to page 1, search engines will actually not index the links on those deeper archive pages.
  • Make them 100% specific. For various reasons, many sites use protocol-relative links, meaning they leave the http / https bit from their URLs. Don’t do this for your canonicals. You have a preference, so show it.
  • Base your canonical on the request URL. If you use variables like the domain or request URL used to access the current page while generating your canonical, you’re doing it wrong. Your content should be aware of its own URLs. Otherwise, you could still have the same piece of content on – for instance – example.com and www.example.com and have each of them canonicalize to themselves.
  • Multiple rel=canonical links on a page cause havoc. When we encounter this in WordPress plugins, we try to reach out to the developer doing it and teach them not to, but it still happens. And when it does, the results are wholly unpredictable.

Read more: 6 common SEO mistakes and how to avoid them »

rel=canonical and social networks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook and Twitter honor rel=canonical too, and this might lead to weird situations. If you share a URL on Facebook that has a canonical pointing elsewhere, Facebook will share the details from the canonical URL. In fact, if you add a ‘like’ button on a page that has a canonical pointing elsewhere, it will show the like count for the canonical URL, not for the current URL. Twitter works in the same way. So be aware of this when sharing URLs or when using these buttons.

Advanced uses of rel=canonical

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google also supports a canonical link HTTP header. The header looks like this:

Link: <https://www.example.com/white-paper.pdf>;    rel="canonical" 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canonical link HTTP headers can be very useful when canonicalizing files like PDFs, so it’s good to know that the option exists.

Using rel=canonical on not so similar pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I wouldn’t recommend this, you can use rel=canonical very aggressively. Google honors it to an almost ridiculous extent, where you can canonicalize a very different piece of content to another piece of content. However, if Google does catch you doing this, it will stop trusting your site’s canonicals and thus cause you more harm…

Using rel=canonical in combination with hreflang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also talk about canonical in our ultimate guide to hreflang. That’s because it’s very important that when you use hreflang, each language’s canonical points to itself. Make sure that you understand how to use canonical well when you’re implementing hreflang, as otherwise, you might kill your entire hreflang implementation.

Conclusion: rel=canonical is a power tool

Rel=canonical is a powerful tool in an SEO’s toolbox. Especially for larger sites, the process of canonicalization can be very important and lead to major SEO improvements. But like with any power tool, you should use it wisely as it’s easy to cut yourself. I hope this guide has helped you gain an understanding of this powerful tool and how (and when) you can use it.

SEO for WordPress

From: https://yoast.com/wordpress-seo/

WordPress is one of the best content management systems when it comes to SEO. But even though it gets a lot right “out of the box”, there’s much more that you can do to improve your performance.

Optimizing your site using the tactics and best practices outlined in this article will help you improve your rankings, gain more subscribers or sales, and have a better website in general.

Because you should ingrain proper SEO in all aspects of your online marketing and PR, this guide covers quite a lot of ground! It’s a long read, so feel free to use the table of contents below to jump around.

Before we start…

This article assumes that you’re using our Yoast SEO plugin, which adds significantly more features and SEO tools to WordPress. If you’re not already using it, you can set it up right away with our beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO.

 

Read more: How much does Yoast SEO cost? »

 

If you’re using another SEO plugin, most of the principles will still apply. Of course, we’d prefer you to switch over and make use of our potent WordPress SEO plugin. Which is why we’ve written a migration guide for you. It’s a straightforward process!

1. Get your basic WordPress SEO right

Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well-optimized content management system. A basic setup can provide a strong foundation — even without extensive customization, theme optimization, and plugins. That said, there are a few things you should do to increase your chances of ranking, refine your workflow, and make sure your website is perfectly optimized.

By putting the right basic settings in place, and applying a few simple techniques, you can ensure that you have a strong foundation to build upon!

1.1. Check your health

Before you make any changes to your site, it is a good idea to see where you are now. There’s a lot to gain from getting it right: running your website on a server with updated software at a web host that offers excellent performance. So ask yourself: on what hardware and software are your sites running? What is your hosting plan? Are you using a budget shared hosting provider, or have you invested in a dedicated hosting plan at a well-known web host that fine-tuned its servers for use with WordPress?

To find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your site, you can visit the Site Health section in WordPress. Also, you could choose to install the Health Check plugin. This plugin gives you loads of technical insights and helps you get information that outside parties can use to help you improve your site. Eventually, all features of the Health Check plugin will move to WordPress core.

Site Health gives you an overview of how your site is doing

1.1.1 Check you’re using suitable hosting

According to WordPress’s technical requirements page, the recommended hosting plan to run WordPress should include a modern version of PHP, MySQL or MariaDB, and HTTPS support. It is possible to work with older server software, but that is not recommended. If you check your Site Health, you can see the technical details of your installation. In addition, if you open the dashboard of your hosting provider, you should be able to see what type of plan you are on.

Remember, paying for good WordPress hosting pays dividends.

1.1.2. Upgrade to PHP 7.0 or higher

Many WordPress sites still run on outdated versions of PHP. One look at the WordPress stats reveals that around 25% of the sites still run on a PHP version in the 5 series, while PHP 7.0 and up have been available for years.

Backward compatibility is cool and all, but it’s holding back WordPress as a technology and site owners from getting the most out of their sites. These old versions of PHP don’t receive any more security fixes and are thus increasingly vulnerable to attacks.

Luckily, the WordPress team has dropped support for anything older than PHP 5.6. Today, the project recommends running WordPress on at least PHP 7.3.

So, one of the most important things you can do to improve the performance and security of your site is upgrading your hosting environment to a modern version of PHP. There are a lot of benefits to this:

  • PHP 7 offers an incredible speed boost.
  • It runs a lot more efficiently, meaning less stress on your server.
  • Bring loads of modern development features.
  • It’s a much safer and more secure environment.
  • It’s future proof.

Now, this is something we all want, right? If you’ve checked your current hosting set-up in the previous section, you have an idea of what your site runs on now. If this shows outdated server software like PHP 5.5, it is a good idea to update this, if possible.

However, take special care before doing so. Ask for help if you’re not sure what you are doing.

Here are some steps to take:

  • (Always!) Backup your website.
  • Make a local staging environment based on a modern version of PHP.
  • Install the backup of your site on that server.
  • Test thoroughly to see if everything works properly.
  • Upgrade your live site — most of the times, your hosting provider can do this for you.

We have a post that shows you how to set up a test environment for your WordPress site. WordPress.org has a post on the advantages of updating your PHP version and what to take into consideration when doing that.

1.1.3. Make sure you’re using SSL and HTTPS

Historically, adopting SSL (getting an HTTPS URL, and a green padlock icon in the browser URL bar) was an optional tactic. Many sites, arguably, didn’t need the extra level of security that SSL provides.

Now, however, having a valid SSL certificate installed is mandatory — search engines may ‘penalize’ sites without valid SSL certificates and setups (and/or show warnings next to their search results). It’s also generally good practice for all websites to use SSL to prevent hackers and third parties from intercepting requests and data.

Additionally, many modern site speed and performance techniques require a valid SSL/HTTPS setup. To take advantage of new, faster web technologies like HTTP/2, browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox require the website to have a valid SSL certificate.

If you want to move to SSL and ensure that your site is served correctly over HTTPS, we have a handy guide with tips & tricks for moving to HTTPS.

1.2. Check your site settings

It’s worth spending some time clicking through all of the sections in the WordPress Settings menu, as many of the options there can impact the SEO of your WordPress site.

In particular, it’s worth double-checking your visibility settings in Settings → Reading, to make sure that you’re not accidentally preventing search engines from indexing your website. That’d definitely hurt your visibility!

You should also make sure that your Writing and Reading settings are all set correctly, these control your default categories, and what should be displayed on your homepage. Don’t forget to give your site a strong tagline in Settings → General, too!

Your permalink settings define what format your page and post URLs will take, which can have a big impact on SEO. So if you’re creating a new site, one of the first things you should do is change your permalink settings, which you can find in Settings → Permalinks.

If you don’t change your settings from the default, all of your pages and posts will have URLs which look like example.com/?p=123. Whilst this is perfectly okay, it’s not particularly nice, and it might impact how users and search engines perceive the quality and relevance of your pages.

Changing the permalink structure alters the components, ordering, and structure of your website’s URLs. It’s important to select the right structure when initially setting up your website, as changing it later can cause SEO issues.

We usually recommend that people use a structure which creates URLs which look like example.com/post-name/, or example.com/category/post-name/, depending on how much importance they anticipate placing on the categorization of their content. For most WordPress sites, choosing either of these options will be perfectly suitable.

For the first option, you can just change the permalink setting to /%postname%/, like so:

Changing the permalink settings to ‘Post name’, in Settings → Permalinks

To include the category, you can select “Custom Structure” and change the value to /%category%/%postname%/.

If you previously had ?p=<postid> as your permalink, WordPress will take care of all the redirects for you. This is also true if you change from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/.

If you have an established site and change from any other permalink structure, you might want to consult our article on changing your WordPress permalink structure and the tool that you’ll find within it.

1.3.1. Choose WWW or non-WWW

You need to think about what you want your site to show up as www.example.com, or simply example.com. Make sure that in your general settings, in Settings → General, the version you want to show up is properly reflected:

Setting the site URL to include or omit ‘www’

From an SEO perspective, there’s little difference either way. Additionally, most hosting and server setups will automatically redirect requests for the ‘wrong’ version, to the version you’ve selected. That makes this primarily a branding consideration — which approach feels best for your site?

From a technical perspective, there’s not a huge amount of difference, either. Some setups might have some minor headaches if they omit the ‘www’ component, but these are increasingly rare.

2. Optimize your content

Your site should provide the best content on your chosen subject — period. People are looking for engaging, authoritative articles and trustworthy answers to their questions. Writing high-quality content for your WordPress site begins with your unique ideas or distinctive take on a particular topic. But it also means presenting these ideas in a well-structured and accessible manner. Together, this will help you attract the audience you’re looking for and keep them engaged.

2.1. Research what your users want and need

Before writing your content, you should think about what search terms you want to be found for. You should optimize every page or post for a specific keyphrase.

But how can you determine what keyphrase you want to be found for? To find out, you need to do keyword research. In this process, you should ask yourself questions such as: what terms do I want to rank for? How realistic is that I can rank for these terms?

Imagine you have a baking blog and you’re passionate about sharing your favorite recipes and baking techniques. Optimizing a post for a term such as [best cake recipe] isn’t such a realistic goal, because it’s a very general term. There’s a lot of competition for such general terms. Instead, you should think about finding your own niche. This niche could be [healthy, low-sugar cake recipes] or [French patisserie you can make at home].

Within a niche, you can become an expert. Your expertise enables you to create content that goes beyond that of your competitors. You can go deeper than others, or shed light on different angles of the same topic. For this, you’ll want to focus on long-tail keyphrases. A long-tail keyphrase might be [how to make a low-calorie vegan blueberry cheesecake]. A keyphrase like this is more specific, and therefore easier to rank for. Also, it’ll be more suitable for your specific niche topic.

It’s also essential to think about what your audience wants to achieve by searching for a specific term. This is called search intent. For example, they could be looking for the answer to a particular question, and you can provide the necessary information. Or they might want to buy a specific product that you can offer them. Think about the needs of your visitors and address them by creating content accordingly.

Need a hand doing keyword research properly? Our Keyword research training can help. This course is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription

2.2. Write great content for your users

After you’ve done your keyword research and you know the topics you want to write about, you need to get to the actual writing. Most of the time that’s easier said than done. To get from an idea to a great piece of content, most likely you’ll have to follow a cycle of drafting, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Your first draft can just be an outline of your structure. You don’t have to write out everything in perfect prose at this point, but make sure that you follow a logical structure. For most pieces, that will include an introduction, your main points of argument, and a conclusion. Of course, this will vary per genre – a recipe will have a completely different structure.

You can flesh out the points further in the writing phase, where you try to come up with a first complete version of your text. Finally, in the editing phase, you should check whether your piece is engaging and easy to read. You might be an expert on your topic, but your audience probably isn’t (yet). So try to make your writing as accessible as possible. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a friend or colleague for some feedback. Another helpful trick is to read your text out loud to yourself. You can even let your computer speak it. It will give you a better idea of whether everything flows nicely.

2.3. Optimize your individual posts & pages

When writing or editing your post, there are a number of elements you need to pay special attention to in order to make it SEO-friendly. These elements include your subheadings, your title, and your meta description. All of these need to reflect the topic of the specific post.

Don’t forget, SEO-friendly doesn’t just mean that it’s easy for a search engine to grasp the topic of a page. More importantly, it means that your visitors can get the gist of your page at a single glance.

Your meta description and your title might be a deciding factor for whether visitors click on your page in the search results in the first place. And once they’ve visited your site, elements like subheadings can be critical for visitors to decide whether they want to stay on your site.

2.3.1. Set your focus keyphrase(s)

One important rule is not to use a focus keyphrase on more than one page. Otherwise, you might end up cannibalizing yourself. Most of the time, you don’t want to rank for multiple pages on the same keyphrase, because it means that you’re setting yourself up as your own competition.

It’s also important to include the focus keyphrase in crucial elements of your post, such as the title, the introduction, your subheadings, and your meta description.

All of these elements are signals for what your post is about. Since your focus keyphrase is, in fact, the main topic of your page, it’s a logical consequence that you should make sure this topic is reflected in all of these elements.

The same logic holds for your text overall: you need to make sure that you don’t stray off-topic; if you stay on-topic, it should follow naturally that you use your keyphrase multiple times throughout your text. But avoid stuffing your writing with your keyphrase just for the sake of it. If you find it hard to include your keyphrase in your text a sufficient number of times, it might be a sign that you should take a different approach to the topic.

To avoid repetition, you can use synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same or more or less the same as your keyphrase. An example of this is the words film and movie. Search engines will recognize that they have the same meaning, which you can also check by having a look at the search results: if you search for moviefilm will also be highlighted in the results, and vice versa.

You can also make use of related keyphrases to optimize a single page for similar, related terms. You can use these to give context to your keyphrase. For example, if your keyphrase is [pumpkin soup] your related keyphrase might be [winter weeknight dinners]. This second, broader term gives additional information about your topic. It can also create coherence by establishing a link to similar pages on your post.

The Yoast SEO Premium analysis makes it easier to optimize your post thanks to word forms, synonyms, and related keyphrases.

2.3.2. Optimize your permalink

In most cases, your post’s URL should probably contain your focus keyphrase, so that it’s obvious what your page is about from the link. That said, you should always try and keep your permalinks short, descriptive, and clean — don’t put unnecessary words in for the sake of it!

Before you publish new posts or pages, you may also wish to consider removing ‘function words‘ from your permalink. These are words like “a”, “and”, and “the”. When done carefully, this may make your permalinks more readable, and easier to use or link to. Posts with especially long titles may benefit from this approach.

For posts that you’ve have already published, we’d recommend being careful when changing permalinks. If people have already linked to your pages, changing the URLs may make a mess. Even though WordPress will sometimes redirect users to the new location (the redirect manager in Yoast SEO Premium handles this automatically, and more reliably), changing URLs can impact performance.

2.3.3. Optimize your page title

Each page’s title — the contents of the HTML <title> tag — can be one of the most important factors for ranking well in search results. Not only is it the literal title of the tab or browser window, but it’s also the first line people see in the search results. It describes what your page is, or is about, and acts as an advert which encourages users to click.

On many websites, the default structure for posts and pages isn’t necessarily the most optimal approach for SEO. A title like “My blog » Cooking » Carbonara recipe” isn’t as compelling or effective as “My 20-minute delicious carbonara recipe | My Blog”.

You must think about the structure of your titles, as well as the content of the title on each page. Typically, it’s worth considering that:

  • Search engines may put more weight on the early words — so trying to get your keywords near the start of the title might make you more likely to rank well.
  • People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.
The Google Preview in Yoast SEO gives you an idea of how your post will look in search engines. Use it to make your content stand out!

For more info on how to create enticing titles for your posts, read our article on crafting good titles for SEO.

Did you know? You can use Yoast SEO to structure your titles!

You can control the default structure of your page titles and descriptions in your Yoast SEO plugin. There are two parts of the plugin that control these. First of all, as soon as you install and activate the plugin, you get an ‘SEO’ section in your WordPress admin.

Navigate to SEO → Search Appearance and you’ll see a bunch of tabs for different types of pages on your site.

For each post type and taxonomy, you can set a so-called Title Template — as well as meta description templates. For posts on our site this looks like this:

Here are yoast.com’s settings for the individual Post URLs

This allows you to use components and variables to control how your page titles should behave by default. Of course, these can be overridden on a page-by-page basis.

For example, in the image above, you can see how we’re automatically grabbing elements like the title of the page, to stop us from having to manually write titles from scratch for every page.

There are all sorts of variables you can use in the titles and meta description, and they’re all listed and explained in the help tab on the page.

For advanced users, there are some additional cool features. For instance, you can use cf_<custom field name> to drop in any custom field — either from a post meta value or a user meta value.

NOTE: When you use these templates, be sure to check that your title tags behave as expected when viewed on the site. If they don’t, you may have a problem with the way your theme is built, and you might need to check the “Force rewrite” checkbox in our options. You can also follow these instructions to modify your templates.

2.3.4. Use headings correctly

Headings are great for structuring your content and helping readers process information in bite-sized chunks. They can also help describe a page’s layout and focus to search engines.

WordPress transforms the headings you put in your content into their respective HTML tags (<h1><h2><h3> and so on). That makes it important to think about which type of headings you use, and in which order. Getting that wrong can make your content harder to understand.

Although most themes for WordPress get the basics right, it’s worth making sure that your template sets your post title is an <h1> tag, and that you’re not using <h1> tags anywhere else on your page or in your post content.

Your post content should then ‘flow’ naturally; for example, large, significant headings should use <h2> tags, subsections should use <h3> tags, and then subsequent new sections should use <h2>.

To learn more about why proper headings are important, please read this article on headings and SEO. In addition, you can read our article about the heading structure for your blog — from which a lot applies to non-blog WordPress sites too. For an explanation on how to use them read the post on how to use headers on your site.

2.3.5. Optimize your meta description

meta description is primarily used search engines to show a description of your page in the search engine results, usually below your page title.

Tailoring and writing a descriptive meta description can encourage users to click your results in the search engine, even if you’re not necessarily ranking in the top position. It’s an advert, and your opportunity to impress.

Writing compelling, informative descriptions of your page content for every page on your site is best practice and gives you the opportunity to attract more visits.

Whilst it might feel like a lot of work to craft descriptions for every single page and post, it’s worth the effort.

If you don’t provide a meta description, the search engine will generally try to find the keyword which was searched for in your page, and automatically pick a string around that — and highlight the searched phrase in bold in the results page.

Automatically generated snippets (whether by plugins, or search engines) are rarely as descriptive or as compelling as hand-written ones. So, we recommend that you use the meta description field you find in the Yoast SEO plugin to write a meta description. Make sure it entices the reader to click through and make sure that it contains the focus keyword of your post or page at least once.

2.3.6. Optimize your images and media

An often overlooked part of WordPress SEO is how you handle your images, videos, and media content. To make sure that search engines can understand your images, you need to think about how you name and format your files. Writing descriptive accessible text descriptions helps, too, and can improve your performance significantly. As an added benefit, you’re also helping out readers who rely on assistive technologies like screen readers.

Using the proper alt attributes for images, and transcripts of videos are also something that we check in the content analysis functionality of our Yoast SEO plugin. We have a longer article on image SEO and one writing alt tags, which can give you more tips to fine-tune your image optimization!

2.4. Maintain your content quality

2.4.1 Keep your content fresh and up to date

As Google strives to show its users the best and up to date information, you should keep track of your content and revise it regularly. Even more so, because you don’t want to show the visitors of your website outdated, redundant or incorrect information.

If you publish regularly and have hundreds, or even thousands, of blog posts, this is easier said than done. That’s why we’d advise focusing on two specific areas when it comes to content maintenance: updating cornerstone content and preventing keyword cannibalization.

2.4.2. Update your cornerstone content

Some pages on your site are more important than others. The most valuable content of your site is called cornerstone content. We’ve written extensively about cornerstone articles and how they can improve your rankings.

In short, these posts or pages:

  • contain essential information for your audience;
  • are complete, up-to-date and well-written;
  • show authority;
  • get the most links from related posts within your own site;
  • rank higher than your other articles on the same topic;
  • get most organic traffic to your site.

When you’re in doubt where to start with updating your site’s content, always give priority to your cornerstone content. Your business relies on them, and they should never go stale!

2.4.3. No outdated cornerstones with Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO makes it a little easier to keep your cornerstones up to date at all times. If you use Yoast SEO on your site, you can mark a post as a cornerstone article. In doing so, these articles will undergo a more rigorous SEO analysis. In addition, they’ll appear in a separate list in your post overview, which makes it easy to browse through them and check if they’re still up to scratch.

If you’re on Yoast SEO Premium, keeping track of them is even easier. The Stale cornerstone content filter only shows your cornerstone articles that haven’t been updated in the last 6 months. You’ll find this filter in your post overview. If it doesn’t show any posts you’re good, and if there are one or more posts in it, make sure you check and update them!

Here are yoast.com’s settings for the individual Post URLs
Yoast SEO Premium keeps track of your cornerstone content and warns when they go stale

2.4.4. Keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization means you’re eating away your own rankings by creating too many articles for the same or similar keywords. If you have a dozen articles on the same topic, search engines don’t know which one of those they should rank highest. As a result, you’ll be competing with your own articles for a high position in the search engines.

If you publish frequently, as we do at Yoast, you’re bound to run into keyword cannibalization issues someday. That’s why we’ve created a framework on how to deal with keyword cannibalism. In short, you’ll have to:

  • Find out for which keywords it’s happening;
  • Analyze which content performs best for those keywords;
  • Keep the best performing posts;
  • Decide if you should merge the other posts into the better performing one;
  • Or just delete and redirect them.

Check out this detailed guide on how to fix keyword cannibilization issues on your site to learn how to go about this.

2.5. Avoid accidental duplicate content

2.5.1. What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content issues arise when search engines encounter multiple URLs with the same or very similar content. As a result, search engines don’t know which of these URLs to rank higher, resulting in lower rankings for all of them.  

In the previous section, we’ve already addressed keyword cannibalization, which is caused by writing about the same topic too often. But most of the times, the root of duplicate content is technical and can happen without you even noticing.

For instance, some content management systems add session IDs or parameters for tracking to URLs. Or, you might have www and non-www versions of a certain page indexed. Accordingly, you’ll have multiple URLs showing the exact same content.

Besides the technical reasons, your articles can get scraped or copied by other parties. So, there are many different causes for duplicate content, as you can read in this extensive article on duplicate content.

If you want to find out if your site suffers from duplicate content, you can use these duplicate content tools to check your site for issues.

2.5.2. Solutions for duplicate content

How you should solve your duplicate content issue depends on the cause of the issue. In general, there are three ways to go about this — in order of preference:

  • Whenever possible, avoid creating duplicate content. If your system creates session IDs in the URL, try to turn that off, for instance.
  • Can’t avoid creating them? 301 redirect those URLs to the original version.
  • Really need to keep a duplicate article? Make sure to add a canonical link to the original version in the <head> section of the duplicate article. It will show search engines what the original version of the article is, so they can pass the link juice on to the original version. In the next section you’ll find out how easy this is with Yoast SEO.

If you want to learn how to solve specific duplicate content issues, check out Joost’s ultimate guide on causes and solutions for duplicate content.

2.5.3. Set a canonical link with Yoast SEO

With Yoast SEO, it’s very easy to add a canonical link to a post or page. No need for a developer! Just go to the Advanced tab in the Yoast SEO metabox below your post or page. There, you’ll find the Canonical URL field where you can enter the URL of the original article — the one you want to point search engines to:  

Fill in your canonical URL in the advanced section of the Yoast SEO metabox

If you don’t set a canonical, Yoast SEO will set a self-referencing canonical for you. This means that the article will point to itself. Learn why self-referencing canonicals are beneficial for SEO.

2.6. Support international audiences

To optimize your site for audiences in several countries or language regions, you’ll need to optimize both your content and your technical setup. Let’s start with the content aspects of international SEO.

Doing targeted keyword research and writing fresh content for each audience is crucial. Take items of clothing, for example. An American vest is a completely different garment from a British vest, or a Dutch vest, or a French vest, or a Spanish vest… you get the point. We don’t recommend using automated translations. Invest time and resources in proper research and translations with which to optimize your keywords and copy.

Another important aspect of international SEO is picking the right domain structure. Generally, a different ccTLD (e.g. www.yoast.de) for every variation is only a good option for very large companies with big budgets. In most cases, subdirectories (e.g. www.yoast.com/de) are the way to go.

Search engines want to display the right language version of your site to each visitor, whatever country they’re from. To help them, you need to implement hreflanghreflang is code that tells the search engines what language variations of a page are available and helps prevent duplicate content problems. It’s quite a complex piece of code, but our hreflang guide helps you along the way — or, you can take our Multilingual SEO trainingThis course is part of our Yoast SEO academy training subscription

2.7. Add schema structured data

Structured data is kind of like a dictionary for search engines. By describing your content in code, you can make it instantly clear what that particular piece of content is about. Plus, you can describe who wrote it, on what site it was published and when. Also, if this article featured recipe, FAQ or how-to content, for instance, you could let search engines know about this. This way, search engines get a better understanding of your site. In return, they can use this to help your site get rich results.

Structured data is essential in this day and age. It used to be hard to add structured data to your site, but with structured data in Yoast SEO, we set out to make it easy. Today, we generate the code search engines need to make sense of your site and its connections automatically. You only need to make a couple of choices in SEO > Search Appearance. Select Person if your site is a personal site or Organization if it is a business or professional site. Don’t forget to pick or upload the correct logo or avatar.

That’s not all: you can also quickly build specific types of content pages with our structured data blocks. These blocks work in the block editor and at the moment, we have two types: for FAQs and how-tos. These blocks help you visually build the content, while generating valid structured data in the background.

Pick Person or Organization to get Yoast SEO to automatically generate the correct structured data

3. Optimize your site structure

A solid site structure helps your users and the search engines navigate your site. On top of that, it will make clear what pages on your website are most important. There are two pillars to a good site structure: organizing your site and contextual internal linking.

3.1. Organize your site

Organizing your site will help you set up a navigation path from your homepage right to your individual posts and pages, and back. Adding categories and subcategories will bring order to chaos. Ideally, your site should be organized as such:

The ideal site structure should follow a strict hierarchy

You should always make sure your homepage is clear and easy to navigate. Cluttering the homepage with too many options will make your site more difficult to understand. Adding a clear menu and breadcrumbs helps your user navigate your site wherever they are.

3.2. Connect your content with contextual internal linking

Besides organizing your site, you need to link up your content within your copy. We call this contextual internal linking because these links always appear within the context of a text.

Contextual internal links set up a network of pages, which points your users to related content. In a post on keyword research, for example, linking to an article on SEO copywriting makes a lot of sense. For search engines, these links provide insight into how pages are related to each other as well.

Always make sure that the number of links to a page reflects the importance of that page. Our ultimate guides get a lot of links from individual posts about related topics. This helps users and search engines understand that these guides are crucial pillars of our site.

When adding a contextual internal link, make sure the link makes sense within the context of the current page. Moreover, always use anchor texts which accurately describe the page you’re linking to. This provides users and search engines with the context they need to assess whether the link is useful. The internal linking tool in Yoast SEO Premium helps you connect your content by suggesting relevant links.

3.3. Manage your categories and tags

WordPress has two default ways of structuring your content: categories and tags. Categories add hierarchy to your content and group topics broadly. On a website about cooking, pasta could be a category. Tags are non-hierarchical and can be used to describe your post in more detail. Dinner party themes, for example, could be a tag.

When setting up your site structure, pick a number of main categories. Adding them to your menu can be a good idea, especially if you only have a blog. If you have a blog and several products, a different setup might make more sense. Make sure your categories are roughly the same size. If your categories become too big, make subcategories. Your category pages can be great landing pages, especially for eCommerce sites.

Tags are useful for users exploring topics, but they are often misapplied. It’s important not to use too many tags, and to use them more than once or twice. Remember, you want to group your content, not just give it a description.

If you want to structure your content differently, WordPress also allows you to create custom taxonomies. Always consider carefully whether your custom taxonomy groups content in a way that makes sense and helps your visitors.

3.4. Manage your archive pages

If you use categories and tags, you will automatically create archive pages. These pages contain a list of the posts and pages within a certain category or tag. Besides categories and tags, there are date-based archive pages and author archives. These archive pages need managing because they cause SEO problems if you don’t.

First of all, you want to prevent search engines from indexing archive pages that don’t make sense on your site. You can use the Yoast SEO plugin for this. You do this under SEO → Search Appearance, where you’ll find the following options on the “Archives” tab:

Manage your archives in Yoast SEO

The settings above are the settings for our site. As you can see, we’ve disabled the date-based archives, as we don’t use those. Any date-based link will redirect to our homepage because of this setting. We’ve left the author archives untouched, but we have set the subpages of those archives to be noindex, follow by default. This way, you’ll never land on page two of an archive on our site from the search engines.

If your blog is a one-author blog, or you don’t think you need author archives, use Yoast SEO to disable the author archives. Also, if you don’t think you need a date-based archive: disable it as we have. Even if you’re not using these archives in your template, someone might link to them and thus break your WordPress SEO…

There is one type of archive that is noindex,follow by default in the Yoast SEO plugin: your own internal search function result pages. This is a best practice from Google.

3.4.1. Pagination

If you have lots of posts on your WordPress site, you might want to think about how your pagination looks and works. Otherwise, you might find that your best content is ‘buried’ deep in your site, and users and search engines may struggle to find it. You should also consider customizing how your pagination looks and works so that it’s a bit more helpful for users and search engines. We really recommend checking out the WP-PageNavi plugin!

You’ll probably want to add breadcrumbs to your posts and pages. Breadcrumbs are the links, usually above the title post, that looks like “Home > SEO blog > WordPress SEO“. Breadcrumbs are good for two things:

  • They allow your users to easily navigate your site.
  • They allow search engines to determine the structure of your site more easily.

These breadcrumbs should link back to the homepage, and the category the post is in. If the post is in multiple categories it should pick one.

To get breadcrumb navigation to show you on your pages, you may need to adapt your single.php and page.php files in your theme, and include the code for breadcrumbs from the Yoast SEO plugin. You find the settings and instructions on how to do that in the SEO → Search Appearance section.

3.6. Manage your HTML & XML sitemaps

You can use XML sitemaps to tell Google and the other search engines that your site has been updated. Our WordPress SEO plugin automatically configures your XML sitemaps, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We generate sitemaps for your different post types, including your images, and make sure that it generates and loads really quickly.

We intelligently split your sitemaps up into smaller bits, so Google only has to fetch one new XML “sub”-sitemap when a post is published.

You can check and manage which types of your content, archives, and templates should be included in your XML sitemaps in your SEO → Search Appearance settings. Content types which are set to not show in search results will be automatically excluded from your XML sitemaps.

Lastly, our XML sitemaps support has a pretty complete API, allowing developers to add or change functionality through their plugins and themes. Our own Local SEONews SEO and Video SEO extensions (which generate their own, specific sitemaps) are built on this API, and, other plugins frequently build their own solutions on top of our system.

For larger or more complex sites, it might make sense to provide an HTML sitemap, too. This is a normal page on your website, which helps users navigate to deeper or more specific content.

4. Speed up your WordPress website

If your website is slow, you risk frustrating your users. That makes them less likely to engage, browse, convert, or visit again. That, in turn, can make them less likely to share your content, link to your pages, or recommend your brand. In short, speed is an important part of WordPress SEO, and a huge part of the overall user experience. That means that it’s critical to measure and manage your performance — especially for users on mobile or slower connections!

4.1. Measure your site speed

Measuring the speed of your site can be confusing. Different tools give different scores and results, and sometimes even give conflicting information. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide on how to measure your speed — it’ll walk you through the basics of picking the right metrics, to using the right tools for the job when it comes to monitoring and diagnosing issues.

4.2. Improve your site speed

Once you’ve identified what and where your bottlenecks are, the next challenge is to make hosting, theme, plugin and performance tweaks to speed things up.

Page speed optimization is a discipline in its own right and spans well-beyond WordPress SEO. That means that the biggest opportunities will vary from site to site, and situation to situation. For some sites, the easiest wins might come from changing hosting or utilizing a CDN; for others, it might mean re-assessing their use of plugins, or, altering how they load CSS and JavaScript.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t get started, though. We’ve put together a guide on some page speed tools and easy wins that you can use to get the ball rolling.

5. Secure your WordPress website

WordPress is the most-used platform for website management in the world. It powers 37% of the web (June 2020). While that is awesome, it also means that WordPress is the most targeted platform for hackers. When running a WordPress website, basic security is dealt with by the platform, but there are things you can do yourselves to make your website more secure.

That starts with your own login. The default username in WordPress is admin, so change that first. Otherwise, a hacker’s first guess for your username is just too easy. The same goes for your password. Passwords like 123456 and welcome01 are just not enough. Use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass and pick a 20+ character password instead. WordPress also has a number of plugins for two-factor verification, so adding that to your website is easy as pie as well. Do it.

There is more you can do, of course, please read our article detailing WordPress security in a few easy steps. We’ll highlight some of the recommendations below.

5.1. Make regular backups

The next thing we’d like you to do is create regular backups. In case your site gets hacked, or something else goes wrong — for instance, when updating a plugin or theme —, it’s important that you revert that change in a heartbeat. Regular backups make sure that this can be done.

In WordPress, there is a wide range of backup options to choose from. Several plugin developers have created nice software solutions for you, so you don’t have the technical hassle of that backup. At Yoast, we recommend and have good experiences with the Blogvault backup solution. That service has additional benefits like creating staging sites and easy migration options.

5.2. Harden your setup

Hardening your setup starts with picking the right hosting company for your WordPress website. That’s just the start, as every host will do its best to help you out, but it’ll still be your responsibility to harden your setup. Also, tools like Cloudflare are good friends for any company/website in this.

An easy first step is to limit login attempts. By limiting the number of times people can try to login to your website — closing your login form after five false logins, for example — you are hardening your install against brute force attacks and other malicious acts targeting that form.

The next thing you need to do is to make sure that your WordPress install, including plugins and themes, is always up-to-date. Updates might fix security issues as well. Make sure to check regularly for updates, and keep your WordPress install up-to-date.

Another important thing to realize is that you are dealing with security every time you add a new user or writer to your WordPress install. There’s an article in the WordPress Codex regarding Roles and Capabilities you should read. It comes down to giving permissions only to those that need it when they need it and only for the time they need it. No need to give a guest blogger administrative rights to your website, right?

Authentication Keys and Salts work in conjunction with each other to protect your cookies and passwords in transit between the browser and web server. Make sure to change these keys when installing a new WordPress instance.

Another easy fix that we’d like to mention is to make sure your template files can’t be edited from the WordPress backend. You can do this in Appearance → Editor. When a hacker managed to get passed your login form, this is really the easiest way to add evil code to your website. Hardening this involves changing your wp-config file.

5.3. Use monitoring and logging

Security is an ongoing process. You need to keep a keen eye on any breaches and keep your website as secure as possible. You could put part of your WordPress security in the hands of, for instance, a company like Sucuri. In case of a hack, they’ll fix this asap. For your own monitoring, you could check your site on a regular basis with their Sitecheck tool. There are a couple of plugins that can help you secure your WordPress site by, for instance, monitor files on your server, like WordFenceiThemes or Sucuri. Pick your plugin of choice, as long as you make sure that security is monitored.

It can also be useful to just keep track of everything that’s happening on your website like file changes and logged in users. There are several plugins and tools for that as well, like WP Security Audit Log. Keeping track of these things makes sure that you can find irregularities in your install and act on these, or find what happened when in case of a security issue.

6. Cater to your mobile visitors

Take one look around and you’ll notice that our mobile devices are becoming the de facto way of browsing the web, even when we’re at home, lying on our couch. We visit mobile websites. You, as a website owner, need to cater to your mobile visitors.

According to Statcounter, mobile market share surpassed desktop market share almost all of 2018. This means that if you are only optimizing for desktop visitors, you are not optimizing for the majority of your visitors. Of course, it depends on your specific niche, since those numbers could be different. Google Analytics can give you the exact numbers for your site.

With a mobile market share like this, there is no way you can consider your mobile website an ‘extra’. Maybe it’s time to make mobile the default. It’s time for mobile SEO.

6.1. Make sure your theme is mobile-friendly

After making sure that your site is fast, make sure your website, or rather your theme, is mobile-friendly. Making your website mobile-friendly starts with making sure the links are not too close together, and buttons are easily clickable. Your font should be consistent and shouldn’t be too small and your images not too big, both in file size and dimensions.

We’d like to highlight two specific mobile theme optimizations below.

6.1.1. Use a responsive design

Responsive design means that the design of your website adapts to the screen size your visitor is using. You can do this by using specific CSS media queries. We wrote about responsive design way back when, but in the basis, things are still the same. You have to address certain ranges of screen widths and design for those. Most WordPress themes should be responsive by now.

Depending on the part of the world you are targeting, no, depending on how fast their mobile internet is (2G? Already at 5G?), you might want to change a couple of things. Think about how you use images on your site. Are you using any text enhancements or font variations that might hinder a good performance of the mobile website? Responsive design helps you build a more focused website. That brings us to the second optimization.

6.1.2. Prioritize what’s important to mobile users

Take a step back and look at your website: what do your users want to do here? Define the four to six main tasks your user performs on your website and focus on these. Maybe even give the most important task a big fat call-to-action button.

Here’s an example: If you have a local business, the two main tasks might be calling you or finding the directions to your business. That means you could add these as a special mobile menu, for instance, — some kind of bar that is visible all the time. Focus on your visitor’s main tasks and make their life as easy as possible. How to find these top tasks? Ask your visitors! Also, check Google Analytics for the most visited pages on your mobile website. More about Analytics further down this article.

6.2. Consider using AMP

If you are using WordPress, you could serve Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well. AMP is a 2015 initiative by Google and some major publishers. It allows for fast mobile pages and does so by stripping some of the design. AMP these days is used for both static content and dynamic content like news articles. AMP has pretty strict code requirements, so be sure to validate your AMP pages frequently.

One of the challenges you as a website owner might have is to make sure the AMP version of your website aligns with your branding. Make sure your visitor — used to visiting your desktop/responsive website — still clearly understands that he or she is visiting your pages. Luckily, the difference between design on all these platforms can be minimalized.

If you are looking to kick-start the AMP version of your WordPress website, be sure to check the official AMP plugin. This will add an AMP version of your website after installing the plugin.

7. Analyze and improve your performance

A good SEO campaign relies not only on implementing changes but also measuring the impact of those changes, seeing what works and doing more of that. Google has developed two amazing tools to analyze the results of your website and to identify new opportunities where you could focus on in the future.

The first one, for analyzing results, is Google Analytics. By adding Google Analytics to your website, you make sure all user data will be stored in your own account. You can, for instance, check how many visits your pages get, how many of your visitors convert, how many visitors immediately leave your website after landing on a certain page and much more. Within Google Analytics, you can see how visitors behave on your website. Here’s how to track your SEO with Google Analytics.

The second tool is meant to analyze how your website performs and to see how visitors find you in the search engine. That tool is Google Search Console. By exporting and sorting through your search queries and impression data, it’s easy to identify opportunities where you could focus on improving clickthrough rates, content, and/or rankings.

7.1. Set up and integrate Google Analytics

To start with Google Analytics, you need to create an account. Click the ‘Start for free’ button to start. To set up your account, you need to add an Account Name first. This could be your company name. However, when you’re about to add other websites to your account, we recommend choosing a more generic Account Name. Also, you can always change your Account Name later when you want to.

After setting up your account, it’s time to add a property: the website you want to add. Insert the Website Name and the Website URL. Make sure you add the precise URL: http:// or https:// and with or without www for collecting the right data.

Create a new account in Google Analytics

After setting up your property you can choose for yourself if you want to enable, some of the data sharing settings. Each data sharing option gives you a clear explanation of what you will be sharing enabling it.

Now you’re almost ready to go! The last step to connect your website to your new Google Analytics account is adding the tracking code to your website. After successfully creating your account and adding a new property you’ll see this screen with your Google Analytics tracking code on top:

Copy the tag to your site

This tag needs to be added to your website. The easiest way to do this within WordPress is by installing a Google Analytics plugin such as the MonsterInsights Plugin for WordPress. Installing this plugin, you don’t need to touch the actual code of your website to connect with Google Analytics. You just simply install and activate the plugin, insert your tracking ID and you’re set! You can also use Google’s Site Kit WordPress plugin to get data from Analytics and Search Console in your backend.

For more technical readers, it’s also possible to add the tag manually to the head of every webpage or to add the tag to Google Tag Manager.

Now your website is connected to Google Analytics, it will start collecting data of your users. Start clicking around to see what all can be found within the data or start reading one of our blog posts about Google Analytics for helpful tips.

7.2. Set up your Google Search Console account

The second tool we think is important to set up is Google Search Console. We recommend going through all steps and you will be all set! In brief, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  • Create or sign in to your Google Search Console account.
  • Click ‘Add a property’ under the search drop-down.
  • Enter your website URL in the box and click ‘Continue’.
  • Verify your website — within the Yoast SEO plugin, you can easily copy and paste the meta tag to make it work.

After connecting your website to Google Search Console, it will start collecting data about the performance of your website.

7.3. Other useful tools

Of course, there are plenty of other useful tools out there to get valuable insights into your website and to find SEO opportunities. Everyone has their own favorite tools, so it’s important to just start playing with different tools to find out what tool brings you what you need most.

There are all-in-one SEO tools which give you a complete overview of your performance and there are more in-depth tools which give you more specific data. Think about site speed tools, duplicate content tools, site analysis tools, keyword research tools and much more.

Some tools we use besides Google Analytics and Google Search Console:

Microsoft Clarity

Microsoft Clarity is another tool that provides valuable insights into the behavior of your website’s visitors. Its features, such as the session replays or the heat map, can help you understand how your audience interacts with your website. That kind of information is precious if you want to improve your site’s user experience! On the Microsoft Clarity dashboard, you’ll also find information on session counts, total users, page view details, etc.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Within the Source/Medium section of Google Analytics, you can see what percentage of your traffic is coming from Bing. When this is a sufficient amount of traffic, you might want to create a Bing Webmaster Tools account as well. Bing Webmaster Tools is the Google Search Console variant for Bing. It shows you your site’s health and performance in the Bing search results.

Ryte

Ryte is one of the all-in-one SEO suites you could use to analyze on-page SEO. The tool crawls your website to give you a bunch of data on indexing, errors, links, speed and much more. You can try Ryte for free to see what it has in it for you. Ryte even integrates with Yoast SEO.

Google Lighthouse

Google Lighthouse is a Chrome extension which you can download for free. With the Lighthouse tool, you can easily generate a report with scores for Performance, Progressive Web App, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. This report will give you a quick overview of how your site is doing. Plus you can immediately start working on the areas that need the most attention. You can also use the web-based version on web.dev/measure.

Hotjar

To get insights on how your visitors actually move, scroll and click on your webpages, you could use a tool like Hotjar. This user research tool also has options to add polls or surveys to your site to start doing research. You can try it for free, and the paid packages have competitive prices.

Interested in more valuable tools? Check our list of favorite SEO tools here!

8. Promote your site

You put a lot of time and effort into the content of your site and making sure that readers can find it via search engines thanks to SEO. But there are other ways to get people to visit your WordPress site and read your posts. But how do you get and grow such an audience? Simply writing posts and putting these out there won’t do the trick: you need to promote your site!

8.1. Encourage engagement

It’s always fun to interact with your readers, but how do you get them to engage? With engagement, we mean all the different ways people can interact with your post. It could be leaving a comment, sharing it on social media or taking action on the topic in general.

But how do you get people to engage? You can always ask them! Write in an engaging way, and then ask your readers for their opinion. Then respond to these comments in order to keep the conversation going and build a relationship with your readers.

Engagement also benefits SEO, as it shows that your site is alive and active. If you want to dive deeper into blog engagement, you can read our post on how you can increase blog engagement.

8.2. Grow your reach

Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. You should be active on the social media channels where your (potential) audience is present. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are examples of popular social media. It might be a lot to decide on, so you can find out more in our blog post on social media strategy: where to begin?

8.3. Build a mailing list

In addition to using social media to promote your blog, it’s often a good idea to invest in a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.

Make sure that you offer a subscribe field beneath your posts and on other visible places on your website. Make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly. But, most of all, make sure your newsletter is truly something special! We use MailChimp for our newsletter, which is free up until 2,000 subscribers.

8.4. Amplify your content

The number of blog posts published every day is enormous, which is why it’s becoming much harder to stand out. Your articles have a big chance of getting lost in the vast sea of content. To help your content reach its full potential you need to amplify it.

If your content is original and well-structured, you’re probably able to reach new audiences. Take a look at how you can reach new audiences, beyond your organic reach.

Maybe advertising on Facebook or Instagram might be a good way to reach new audiences for your content? Analyze what channels you already use and decide where you can do more in order to broaden your audience.

9. Conclusions

This guide gives you a lot of stuff you can do on your WordPress site. It goes from technical SEO tips to conversion tips, to content tips, to conversation tips, and a whole lot in between. There’s a catch though: if you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you’ll have to actually do most of it and create great and compelling content in the process.

You’re competing with every other website and business on the planet for attention, visitors, and outcomes. That means you have to put in a lot of hard work!

But don’t worry — we’re here to help.

So if you want to keep updated on the latest news about WordPress, SEO, and our plugins, then you can subscribe to our newsletter and stay one step ahead of the competition!

Robot Meta Tags and Meta Robot Tags

From: https://yoast.com/robots-meta-tags/

If you use meta robots tags on your pages, you can give search engines instructions on how you’d like them to crawl or index parts of your website. This page lists an overview of all the different values you can have in the meta robots tag, what they do, and which search engines support each value.

The different robots meta tag values

The following values (‘parameters’) can be placed on their own, or together in the content attribute of tag (separated by a comma), to control how search engines interact with your page.

Scroll down for an overview of which search engines support which specific parameters.

index
Allow search engines to add the page to their index, so that it can be discovered by people searching.
Note: When there are no directives relating to indexing, this is assumed to be the default.
noindex
Disallow search engines from adding this page to their index, and therefore disallow them from showing it in their results.
Note: Informal messaging from Google suggests that, if a page is set to noindex for a long period of time, it may also be treated as if it were also set to nofollow. The precise mechanics of this are unclear, and it’s unclear whether other search engines behave similarly.
follow
Tells the search engines that it may follow links on the page, to discover other pages.
Note: When there are no directives relating to following links, this is assumed to be the default.
nofollow
Tells the search engines robots not to ‘endorse’ (pass equity through) any links on the page. Note that this includes all links on the page, including, e.g., those in navigation elements, links to images or other resources, and so on.
Note: It’s unclear (and inconsistent between search engines) whether this attribute prevents search engines from following links, or just prevents them from assigning any value to those links.
none
A shortcut for noindex, nofollow.
all
A shortcut for index, follow.
Note: This is assumed by default on all pages, and does nothing if specified.
noimageindex
Disallow search engines from indexing images on the page.
Note: If images are linked to directly from elsewhere, search engines can still index them, so using an X-Robots-Tag HTTP header is generally a better idea.
noarchive
Prevents the search engines from showing a cached copy of this page in their search results listings.
nocache
Same as noarchive, but only used by MSN/Live.
nosnippet
Prevents the search engines from showing a text or video snippet (i.e., a meta description) of this page in the search results, and prevents them from showing a cached copy of this page in their search results listings.
Note: Snippets may still show an image thumbnail, unless noimageindex is also used.
nositelinkssearchbox
Prevents the search engine from showing an inline search box for your site.
nopagereadaloud
Prevents the search engine from reading your page’s content aloud via voice services/results.
notranslate
Prevents search engines from showing translations of the page in their search results.
max-snippet:[number]
Sets a maximum number of characters for the meta description.
Note: Omitting this tag may result in an implied value of 0. A default value of -1 should be set to imply ‘no limit’.
max-video-preview:[number]
Sets a maximum number of seconds for a video in a preview.
Note: Omitting this tag may result in an implied value of 0. A default value of -1 should be set to imply ‘no limit’.
max-image-preview:[setting]
Sets a maximum image size for use in a preview (nonestandard or large).
Note: Omitting this tag may result in an implied value of none.
rating
Indicates that a page contains adult material.
unavailable_after
Tells search engines a date/time after which they should not show it in search results; a ‘timed’ version of noindex.
Note: Must be in RFC850 format (e.g., Monday, 15-Aug-05 15:52:01 UTC).
noyaca
Prevents the search results snippet from using the page description from the Yandex Directory.
Note: Only supported by Yandex.
noydir
Blocks Yahoo from using the description for this page in the Yahoo directory as the snippet for your page in the search results.
Note: Since Yahoo closed its directory this tag is deprecated, but you might come across it once in awhile.

Which search engine supports which robots meta tag values?

This table shows which search engines support which values. Note that the documentation provided by some search engines is sparse, so there are many unknowns.

Robots value Google Yahoo Bing Ask Baidu Yandex
Indexing controls
index Y* Y* Y* ? Y Y
noindex Y Y Y ? Y Y
noimageindex Y N N ? N N
Whether links should be followed
follow Y* Y* Y* ? Y Y
nofollow Y Y Y ? Y Y
none Y ? ? ? N Y
all Y ? ? ? N Y
Snippet/preview controls
noarchive Y Y Y ? Y Y
nocache N N Y ? N N
nosnippet Y N Y ? N N
nositelinkssearchbox Y N N N N N
nopagereadaloud Y N N N N N
notranslate Y N N ? N N
max-snippet:[number] Y Y N N N N
max-video-preview:[number] Y Y N N N N
max-image-preview:[setting] Y Y N N N N
Miscellaneous
rating Y N N N N N
unavailable_after Y N N ? N N
noodp N Y** Y** ? N N
noydir N Y** N ? N N
noyaca N N N N N Y

* Most search engines have no specific documentation for this, but we’re assuming that support for excluding parameters (e.g., nofollow) implies support for the positive equivalent (e.g., follow).
** Whilst the noodp and noydir attributes may still be ‘supported’, these directories no longer exist, and it’s likely that these values do nothing.

Rules for specific search engines

Sometimes, you might want to provide specific instructions to a specific search engine, but not to others. Or you may want to provide completely different instructions to different search engines.

In these cases, you can change the value of the content attribute to a specific search engine (e.g., googlebot).

Note: Given that search engines will simply ignore instructions which they don’t support or understand, it’s very rare to need to use multiple meta robots tags to set instructions for specific crawlers.

Conflicting parameters, and robots.txt files

It’s important to remember that meta robots tags work differently to instructions in your robots.txt file, and that conflicting rules may cause unexpected behaviors. For example, search engines won’t be able to see your meta tags if the page is blocked via robots.txt.

You should also take care to avoid setting conflicting values in your meta robots tag (such as using both index and noindex parameters) – particularly if you’re setting different rules for different search engines. In cases of conflict, the most restrictive interpretation is usually chosen (i.e., “don’t show” usually beats “show”).

Adding a noindex or nofollow to a post or page is a breeze if you’re on WordPress. Read how to use Yoast SEO to keep a post out of the search results.

Resources from the search engines

Focus Keyword

From: https://yoast.com/focus-keyword/
In the Yoast SEO plugin, you’ll find a focus keyphrase input field for every page on your site. Here, you can enter the keyword or keyphrase you’d like the page to rank for in Google. If you do, Yoast SEO will run a check on the content of that page to see if search engines will recognize what your page is about. Here, we’ll explain what the purpose of a focus keyphrase is and how to choose it well.

Looking for keyphrase suggestions? When you’ve set a focus keyword in Yoast SEO, you can now click on ‘Get related keyphrases’ and our SEMrush integration will help you find high-performing keyphrases!

What is a focus keyword?

The focus keyword or keyphrase is the search term that you want a page or post to rank for most. When people search for that phrase, they should find you. If you set a focus keyphrase for a page with Yoast SEO, the plugin evaluates the page’s content and provides feedback on how to improve the content to increase the chances of ranking higher for that search term.

You’ll find the input field for your focus keyphrase in the Yoast SEO sidebar on the right side of your editor. If you don’t see the Yoast SEO sidebar, click on the Yoast icon on the top right of your screen first.

The focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO sidebar

You can also find the focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO meta box below the post editor:

The focus keyphrase input field in the Yoast SEO meta box

You’ll find the feedback to improve your content in the SEO analysis tab. If you amend your page with this feedback, it will be easier for search engines to recognize what your post or page is about.

Check out this video to see how it works:

 

Why a focus keyphrase?

Regularly adding quality content to your website or blog is a good SEO strategy. Google sees that your website is active because you add new information and you increase the volume of your content.

But randomly adding content to your site isn’t very useful. You have to craft a keyword strategy, and based on that strategy you should create high-quality content your audience is looking for. When you write those articles, it’s important to optimize them for the keyphrases you’re aiming at. And that’s what Yoast SEO helps you with.

How to choose a focus keyphrase

In our view, there are at least three things you should do to determine which keywords or keyphrases you should optimize your blog posts for:

  1. Find a focus keyword people search for
  2. Research the search volume
  3. Google your keyphrase

Let’s elaborate on these steps a bit:

1. Find a focus keyword people search for

As mentioned above, your keyword strategy should have given you some idea of what you want to write about. If you don’t have a keyword strategy yet, you should really create one. You can read our ultimate guide to keyword research or take our keyword research training course if you need help to find your perfect keywords and keyphrases.

Long-tail keywords

If you want a post or page to rank, you can increase your chance of success by aiming for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords often exist of more words and are less searched for than very popular ‘head’ keywords. But less popular also means less competition and the chances to convert are usually higher as you can read in this guide to content SEO.

Tools that help you find long-tail and related keyphrases

When you’ve done your keyword research and you already have an idea of what you want to write about, you can use different tools to find long-tail variants of that keyphrase or related keyphrases. For instance, you can use a tool like Answer the Public to find which questions people have about a particular topic. This will give you loads of new insights and inspiration for new posts.

But, since Yoast SEO 15.1 we’ve made this even easier for you! In the Yoast SEO plugin, we now offer a brand new feature: a SEMrush integration to easily find related keyphrases that people search for. So, when you know what to write about you can click on ‘Get related keyphrases’ below your focus keyphrase and find out what terms people search for and even learn more about volume and trends:

Find related keyphrases in Yoast SEO with the SEMrush integration

2. Research the search volume for your keyphrase

Once you have found a long-tail search term you want to rank for, you should put some effort into discovering whether or not there are many searches for that keyword or phrase – the search volume. This use to require quite some effort: researching search terms in Google Adwords or Google Trends. But now you can easily get related or long-tail keyphrases in Yoast SEO and find information about search volume (how often it is searched for in a specified period of time) and trends (how that changed over time) too! Now you can easily compare the possible related keyphrases and decide on which ones to focus in your current or other posts!

Optimizing your post for related keyphrases can improve the quality of your content: it will make it more complete and easier to understand for Google. If you want to set one of these related keyphrases for your posts you can do so with one click in Yoast SEO Premium. After that, go back to the post editor and optimize your post for the new related keyphrase.

In addition to setting related keyphrases and synonymsYoast SEO Premium better recognizes your keyphrase when it’s in plural or past tense, for instance. Google is smart, get an analysis that’s just as smart!

Check your posts that already rank

If you already have some (blog) posts that rank well for good terms, you will know how many visitors these posts attract. Using Google Trends to compare the focus keyphrases of older posts (which you can view the statistics for) with the focus keyphrase you have in mind for your new post, could give you some idea about the potential traffic this new keyphrase could bring. Make sure to choose older posts that are most similar to the post you’re planning to write: if you’re planning to choose a long-tail keyword, compare posts with long-tail keywords as well.

For instance, this post about the focus keyphrase could be compared with a post about snippet previews, a related feature of the Yoast SEO plugin we already wrote about:

Compare posts to find out more about the potential traffic

As you can see the amount of traffic is a bit lower but comparable, we know the search traffic to our snippet preview post is reasonably good, so we know it’s worth optimizing for. Doing this to compare your old focus keyphrase or keyword and the one you want to use will give you some insights about the prospects for your focus keyphrase.

Another good way to use this is when you are considering a number of (long-tail) focus keywords. Because it will easily show you which search term will have the highest search volume compared to another. Therefore, it will help you decide which long-tail keyword is most commonly used in search.

For additional tools, see this post by Marieke about keyword research tools.

3. Google your proposed focus keyword!

Apart from knowing which search terms are actually used by people, you need to know whether or not your idea for your post or page fits the needs and expectations of the people who use these search terms. You need to find out what the search intent is. One way to find out whether your content meets people’s needs is to Google your proposed (sets of) keywords yourself.

Check the search engine result pages

Take the time to look at the search engine result pages (SERPs) Are the articles in the Google results of similar character to your article? Could your article fit the results shown in these search pages? If you decide to write your blog post or page, while optimizing for this exact focus keyword, you are aiming to get your post amongst these results.

The type of content shown on the search results will help you decide on what kind of content to create: does Google show product pages or blog posts? Or perhaps videos, images? If there’s one dominant type, Google probably “thinks” this is the type of content people are looking for, so it’s worth investing time in creating that type of content too. Of course, the results change when the search intent change. Remember: you’ll have to beat the other search results, so only do this when you’re sure you can create something truly outstanding and useful for your audience!

Content of the results pages

Be sure to use the content of the result pages as an inspiration for your blog post. Are there any useful ideas? We are NOT encouraging you to copy content, merely to see whether you perhaps missed some information or arguments for your post or page. And, most importantly: How can you make sure your post will stand out? In what way could your post be better, funnier, more original than the post presently displayed in the result pages? Try to come up with content that will make the audience click and share!

Check out social media and forums

Another great tip: Check what people ask and have to say about this topic on social media and various online forums. This will probably give you loads of input for your post or page. You can directly address the questions people have and the difficulties they encounter regarding this topic. On top of this, it will help you use the right wording, which is crucial if you want to reach your audience.

Don’t forget to repeat your research now and then!

Remember that these search suggestions change all the time. The suggestions will often be tuned to what you’ve been searching for before. When we searched for the term “focus keyword” some time ago, this was the suggest output:

The suggest results for Focus keyword in Google Suggest

Later on, the output showed this:

focus keyword search november 2014

Suggest changes based on the problems people have, so monitoring it for important keywords makes sense. New results can give you input for your post or other, but related posts.

Yoast SEO checks the quality of your keyphrase

A good focus keyword for your post is essential if it needs to stand a chance in the search engines. Therefore Yoast SEO checks some aspects of your keyphrase. First of all, we check the length of your keyphrase, to make sure your keyphrase isn’t too long. In addition to this, Yoast SEO checks whether the keyphrase only consists of function words.

The function word check in Yoast SEO

Function words (words such as theaand, or, have) carry very little meaning. They don’t help Google figure out the topic of the copy. We warn you if you only have words like these in your keyphrase. Even though it’s not very likely to come up with such a keyphrase yourself, it can happen that you were distracted while typing in your keyphrase. For instance, you could have just typed [the] instead of [the best movies of 2020]. To prevent keeping your focus keyphrase like this, Yoast SEO will show a warning with a grey bullet in the SEO analysis of your post and help you stay focused!

In rare cases, you might actually mean to rank for a phrase that consists of function words only. For instance, if you are writing a post about a meme “Why would you do that?”. In exceptional cases like this, you can avoid getting a red bullet by adding a double quote before and after your keyphrase. Doing so, our tool will just look for the exact match of this phrase and the warning will disappear.

Read more about the function word check in Yoast SEO.

Should every page have a focus keyphrase?

People often ask us whether their about page or contact page should have a focus keyword, and, if so, what should it be?

The answer is easy: not every page needs a focus keyword. Your contact page should be easily reachable, it might, for instance, need to rank for “<company name> address.” That probably doesn’t make sense as a focus keyword though, and it’s perfectly fine to leave it empty.

Also, ask yourself: Do I want this post to rank in the long term? Some posts, for instance, temporary announcements, are probably not worth optimizing either.

Conclusion and further readings

Choosing a perfect focus keyword or keyphrase is not an exact science. You should aim for a combination of words that are actually used by a search audience. Aim for a keyphrase that is relatively high in volume and one that will suit your audience.

We have lots more articles on this subject: you can read about keyword researchcontent writing and improving your site structure. We’ve also combined all of these different topics into an SEO copywriting course