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How to create the right meta description

The meta description is a snippet of up to about 155 characters – a tag in HTML – which summarizes a page’s content. Search engines show it in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase is within the description. So optimizing it is crucial for on-page SEO. In this post, we’ll show you the characteristics of a good meta description, and how Yoast SEO can help you with it.

Table of contents

What is a meta description?Why set a meta description?Characteristics of a good meta description1. Keep it up to 155 characters 2. Use active voice and make it actionable 3. Include a call-to-action4. Use your focus keyword5. Show specifications, where possible 6. Make sure it matches the content of the page7. Make it unique How Yoast SEO helps you write meta descriptionsWhat does the keyphrase in meta description assessment in Yoast SEO do?How to get a green bullet for the keyphrase in meta descriptionWhat does the meta description length assessment do? How to write a concise meta descriptionWhat to do if you need meta descriptions for a lot of pages? Meta descriptions for social sharing

Did you get a red bullet for the keyphrase in meta description check in Yoast SEO? Read what this check does, and how to turn this bullet green. Yoast SEO also checks the length of your meta description. Read about how that check works, and how to write a concise meta description.

What is a meta description?

The meta description is an HTML tag you can set for a post or page of your website. In it, you can describe what your page is about. If you’re lucky, Google will show it beneath your page’s title in the search results. It brings you an opportunity to convince search engine users that your page will offer what they are looking for.

In Google’s search results, this is where it can be displayed:

A meta description from as seen in the search results

And this is what it looks like in the HTML code of the page:

Why set a meta description?

Its purpose is simple: it needs to get someone searching with a search term on Google to click your link. In other words, meta descriptions are there to generate click-throughs from search engines.

Search engines say there is no direct SEO benefit from the meta description – they don’t use it in their ranking algorithm. But there is an indirect benefit: Google uses click-through-rate (CTR) as a way of working out whether you’re a good result. If more people click on your result, Google considers you to be a good result and will – based on your position – move you up the rankings. This is why optimizing your meta description is so important, as is optimizing your titles.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that Google will display the meta description that you’ve written. But, as there is a chance it will, it’s always worth the effort to add it to your post or page.

In this Yoast SEO academy video, Fleur will explain how titles and meta description help increase your visibility on Google:

Characteristics of a good meta description

Based on the research we did on this topic, as well as our own experience, we came up with this list of elements you need to write a good meta description: 

1. Keep it up to 155 characters 

The right length doesn’t really exist; it depends on the message you want to convey. You should take enough space to get the message across, but keep it short and snappy at the same time. However, if you check the search results in Google, you’ll mostly see snippets of 120 to 156 characters, like in the example below. 

Unfortunately, we can’t fully control what Google displays in the search results. Sometimes it decides to show the meta description, and sometimes it just grabs some sentences of your copy. Either way, your best bet is to keep it short. That way, if Google does decide to show the meta description you’ve written, it won’t be cut short. 

2. Use active voice and make it actionable 

If you consider the meta description the invitation to your page, you have to think about your user and their (possible) motivation to visit your page. Make sure that your description isn’t dull, difficult or too cryptic. People need to know what they can expect to find on your page.

The example in the image below is the kind of description you should strive to write. It’s active, motivating, and addressing you directly. You just know what you’re going to get if you click on the link!

3. Include a call-to-action

“Hello, we have such and such new product, and you want it. Find out more!” This overlaps with what we said about the active voice, but we wanted to emphasize it once again. The meta description is your sales text. Except, in this case, the “product” you are trying to sell is the page that is linked. Invitations like Learn moreGet it nowTry for free come in handy and we use them too.

meta description of the SEO copywriting training page on

4. Use your focus keyword

If the search keyword matches a part of the text in the meta description, Google will be more inclined to use it and highlight it in the search results. This will make the link to your site even more inviting. Google sometimes even highlights synonyms. In the example below, both the Academy Awards and Oscars are highlighted. Getting your results emphasized like that makes them stand out even more.

5. Show specifications, where possible 

If you have a product for the tech-savvy, it can be a good idea to focus on the technical specs. For example, you can include the manufacturer, SKU, price, things like that. If the visitor is specifically looking for that product, chances are you won’t have to convince them. As in the example below. The watch can help us stay fit? Sign us up, that’s all we needed to know. Note that to optimize your result in this manner, you should work on getting rich snippets.

Google result for Apple Watch Series 5

6. Make sure it matches the content of the page

This is an important one. Google will find out if you use the meta descriptions to trick visitors into clicking on your result. They might even penalize you if you do it. But besides that, misleading descriptions will probably also increase your bounce rate. Which will also lower people’s trust in your company. It’s a bad idea for that reason alone. That is why you want the meta description to match the content on the page.

7. Make it unique 

dding the date to the snippet preview

People often ask questions about the date shown in the Google preview of our Yoast SEO plugin. We’ve added this because search engines may display a date with your snippet. So it’s important to factor it in when you decide on the right length of your meta description. Unfortunately, there’s no way to directly control whether this date is shown or not, but you can try to manage the dates they use in the search results.

If your meta description is the same as those for other pages, the user experience in Google will be hampered. Although your page titles might vary, all pages will appear to be the same because all the descriptions are the same. Instead of creating duplicate meta descriptions, you’d be better off leaving it blank. Google will pick a snippet from the page containing the keyword used in the query. That being said, writing a unique meta description for every page you want to rank with is always the best practice.

How Yoast SEO helps you write meta descriptions

If you’re on WordPress and using Yoast SEO, adding a meta description is easy as pie. Firstly, you can write it in the Google preview section of Yoast SEO. But, Yoast SEO also gives you feedback on it in the SEO analysis. The plugin checks two things, the meta description length and whether you’ve used your focus keyphrase in it. So let’s see how the plugin helps you, and what you can do with it. 

What does the keyphrase in meta description assessment in Yoast SEO do?

This check is all about using the keyphrase in the meta description. A focus keyphrase is the search term you want a page to rank with. When people use that term, you want them to find your page. You base your keyphrase on keyword research. In a nutshell, after you do your research, you should end up with a combination of words that the majority of your audience is most likely to search for. We’ve already discussed that when you use your keyphrase in the meta description, Google will likely highlight it. That makes it easier for people to see that they’ve found what they are looking for. 

Yoast SEO checks if and how often you use the words from your focus keyphrase in the meta description text. In addition, if you use Yoast SEO Premium, it also takes into account the synonyms you enter. If you overdo it, the plugin advises you to limit the use of your focus keyphrase.

keyphrase in meta description check in Yoast SEO

How to get a green bullet for the keyphrase in meta description

If you don’t mention the keyphrase in the meta description at all, you’ll get a red bullet. So, make sure to write one. But, don’t stuff your meta description with your keyphrase, because that will also get you a red bullet. And, make sure to mention all the words from your keyphrase near to each other. Search engines are pretty smart nowadays, but you still need to make it clear what your page is about. 

Yoast SEO Premium plugin takes the synonyms you’ve added into account when it performs its analysis. This allows you to write more naturally and will result in a text that’s a more pleasant read. Moreover, it’s easier to score a green bullet this way. Use it to your advantage!

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What does the meta description length assessment do?

This check measures whether your meta description is too short (less than 120 characters) or too long (more than 156 characters).  When your meta description has the right length, you’ll get a green bullet. If it’s too long, or too short, you’ll get an orange bullet in the SEO analysis of Yoast SEO (or red, if you’ve marked your article as cornerstone content).

Meta description length check in Yoast SEO

How to write a concise meta description

A good meta description convinces people that your page offers the best result to their query. But, to be the best result, you must know what people are looking for. What is their search intent? Are they looking for an answer to a question? If they are, try to give them the most complete answer. Are they looking for a product? Write down what makes your product stand out and why they would best buy it in your store. Be concise and convincing!

You get real-time feedback on the meta description length in the Google preview section in the Yoast SEO sidebar or meta box. If you want to write a meta description, click on “Google preview” in the Yoast SEO sidebar. This will open the snippet editor and you’ll see input fields to edit the SEO title, the slug and the meta description. When you start typing in the meta description input field, the snippet preview at the top of the Google preview editor will immediately show your new text. Underneath the input field, there is a bar. It’s orange when you start typing and will become green when you’ve added enough information. When you add too much text, it will turn orange again.

Google preview editor in Yoast SEO
Google preview editor in the Yoast SEO sidebar

It’s also possible to write or edit your meta description in the Yoast SEO meta box underneath your post editor. Just go the SEO tab in the meta box (if it’s not on this tab by default) and you can start typing in the field under Meta description right away.

What to do if you need meta descriptions for a lot of pages?

Does it feel like you need to change all your meta descriptions after reading this? But not sure how to fit that in your schedule? Google has the answer:

If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.

You can check which of your pages rank highest with Google Search Console. Simply take it from there. Additionally, it’s also possible to optimize your meta descriptions with variables in Yoast SEO. Allowing you to speed up this process a lot without having to worry about duplicate descriptions.

If you prefer to write a unique description for each of your pages, and you’ve got a lot to get through, you can use the Bulk editor tool in Yoast SEO. Head over to the Tools page, click on ‘Bulk editor’ and then select the ‘Description’ tab. You’ll be able to see any meta descriptions already set for your pages, and you can quickly add new ones without having to open each page individually. However, with this tool you won’t get warnings if your description is too short/long, or if the focus keyword is missing.

Meta descriptions for social sharing

Do you have Yoast SEO? In that case: check the Facebook and Twitter preview in the Yoast SEO sidebar or social tab in the Yoast SEO meta box below your post or page. You can add a separate description for your social media channels there. In Yoast SEO Premium, you even have social previews that show you what your post or page will look like when shared on social media.

Read more: How to use the Google preview in Yoast SEO »

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Best practices for SEO-friendly URLs

It’s a topic that remains up for discussion: SEO-friendly URLs. Should you include the category? Do you want to keep the URL as short as possible or is there room for extras? Is it smart to stuff your URL with keywords? First of all, it’s good to know that the best practices for SEO-friendly URLs can differ per website type. There are, however, a few ground rules that you can keep in mind when setting up your URLs. In this post, we’ll explain our take on URLs and elaborate on why we think that this is the best option for your links.

URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator, but you won’t have to remember that. It’s simply the address of a unique resource on the web that you can also use to navigate to that resource right away. A simple example is the URL that takes you to Google’s search page. URLs are not exactly the same as slugs. The slug is actually the part of a URL that identifies a particular page on a website. An example is the URL where the slug is ‘keyword-research’.

few ground rules for SEO-friendly URLs

Although best practices can depend on the kind of website you have, there are a few ground rules when it comes to creating SEO-friendly URLs:

Make sure that your URLs are focused. They shouldn’t contain function words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.Although you want to keep your URL focused, try to keep it readable enough to give people an idea of what they can expect when they click on your link.Use hyphens to separate words in your slug. Don’t use spaces, underscores or other characters of your choice to do this.There isn’t really an ideal length for your URL, but we do recommend to keep your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are more focused and easier to recall. In addition, they will be less likely to be cut off when shown in Google. It’s also good to keep in mind that if you use breadcrumbs on your site, as we do, these could appear in Google’s results instead of the full URL:

Now that you’re aware of the ground rules, let’s look into the best practices per type of website. Because there are different factors to consider, depending on your website. We’ll discuss how to create SEO-friendly URLs for:

Company websitesOnline shopsBlogs or news sites

SEO-friendly URLs for company websites

If you have a static website that provides people with information on your company and services (without an online shop or blog page on it), we would recommend going with the shortest URL possible. For all of your pages. This makes it easy for people to revisit these pages and keeps your URLs clean and clear. When you have a company website, it’s best to keep it simple and not create unnecessary long URLs.

SEO-friendly URLs for online shops

If your website is or has an online shop, you have two options when it comes to the URLs of your product pages:

There are actually a few content management systems (like Magento) that automatically create both URLs when you create a product page. If that’s the case on your website, you can use rel=canonical to point Google to the one you want to appear in their search results.

However, the question still remains what URL structure you should use. When it comes to an online shop, you can use your URLs to tell visitors more about your product range. For example, if your shop contains categories that make your visitor’s life easier, by all means, include these categories in your URL as well. That way your URL, breadcrumbs, and menu will tell the visitor where they are on your website and what else they can expect to find:

As you can see from the example above, the categories included in the URL give an idea of the other products that someone can find on that particular website. Of course, you need to decide for yourself whether you feel that your categories add that value to the URL. If so, it’s also better for SEO to include the category, as category and product are very much related and this will help Google understand your pages even more.

SEO-friendly URLs for blogs or news sites

When your website is a blog or news website, there are a number of ways to construct your URLs. Let’s go over them one by one:
If your site as a whole has one central and strong theme, you could consider focusing on the post title alone to create an SEO-friendly URL. The coherence of your content will indicate the main topic of your website to Google, so there will be no need to add that to the URL.
When your website is a news website on which you’re writing about different topics, adding the topic (for instance as a category name) is a good idea. This will help site visitors and Google understand what the page is about. The logic behind that is similar to the logic behind product page URLs (as explained above). The category name gives people more context and an idea of other news that they can expect on your website.
If your website features daily news and the news is related to a date, you can choose to include that date in the URL as well. If someone is looking for the latest news on Apple’s products, the date in the URL will show someone if the page is about this year’s iPhone or not. However, it is good to note that the URL is often not shown in the search results and that Google can sometimes show a original publish date (regardless of when you’ve done the last update). So, although a date in your URL will likely not impact your SEO, you should consider whether it serves your site visitors.

To conclude

Although there are a few ground rules, there is not one correct way to create the best SEO-friendly URL. It depends on your website and content. Especially with a blog or news site, there are multiple options to consider. The main takeaway is to keep your URLs focused and to keep your audience in mind. Besides that, make sure to include all the information that’s important to make clear what the page is about.

If you’d like to learn more about best practices in SEO, our all-around SEO training course can help you with that. In this course, you’ll get practical tips on how to rank higher and get more visitors to your website!

Read more: What is a slug and how to optimize it? »

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Does readability rank? On ease of reading and SEO

Is it worth your while making your text easy to read? Will it lead to higher rankings and more traffic? In simpler terms: Does readability rank? At Yoast, we’re convinced that writing in plain and understandable language can and will get you more visitors. We’ve even developed a tool to help people write readable text. In this post, we’ll explain why search engines love easy-to-understand copy and we’ll give tips on how to create it.

Tip: Join our free readability workshop on September 23!

You’ll leave the workshop with a new or improved blog. Together with our CEO Marieke, you’ll do a 30 min session, working on making your content readable. Plus get all your questions ready for the Q&A!
Save your spot now

Well-written copy improves user experience

At the risk of stating the obvious: unintelligible copy makes for a bad user experience. Nobody likes to read something that’s difficult to follow, boring or stuffed with keywords. All your online copy should be aimed and focused on your audience. It should be providing them with the information they need, a solution to their problem, or an answer to their question.

To get your pages high in Google, your instinct may be to write a text that the search engines will easily understand. Which isn’t necessarily wrong. But, first and foremost, you should create pages that provide great copy (and a great experience) for your visitors. This fits in nicely with our vision of holistic SEO. If you write a text that’s hard to understand, people won’t find what they need. What’s more, you’ll end up with unsatisfied visitors that bounce back to Google right when they hit your site. Google analyzes user signals like that to determine how visitors experience your site.

Search engines mimic humans

There used to be a time when stuffing keywords in your copy would work. If you’d just mention your keywords enough times in your text, Google would rank it high for those keywords. Those times are long gone. Nowadays, you need to be more mindful when it comes to the keyword density of your text.

Google has gotten much better at recognizing quality content. For instance, Google now recognizes synonyms. It also understands which words, entities, and content are related to each other. In addition to that, search engines are becoming better at predicting what people want to read. From the keywords in someone’s search query, they can make an estimated guess of their search intent.

Overall, Google’s algorithm is trying to mimic a human. It tries to read text like a human being would. As Google becomes more capable of understanding and scanning texts in a human-like way, readability will become more important for your rankings.

Voice search & accessibility

A lot of people use voice search, so Google and other search engines are also very much focused on voice. Imagine a long paragraph consisting of meandering sentences and containing lots of difficult words. Now imagine that paragraph read out loud. The voice result would become impossible to understand. Google wouldn’t want to use an answer like that. Neither in voice search or in normal results. That’s another reason why readability will help your rankings. Google prefers texts that are easy to follow, also when they’re read out loud using voice search.

But readability is also important when it comes to accessibility. You need to keep in mind that not everyone who visits your page will experience it in the same way. Some people with a visual impairment might use a screen reader to go through your content. You don’t want them to leave your page because your text is just way too long. But that’s not all. Much like Google itself, they rely on the proper use of headings to understand what your text is about. Remember that accessibility matters, and not just for SEO.

What makes a text easy to read?

How do people read online text? Of course, we all want to write that text that site visitors will gladly read from beginning to end. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Most of the time, people scan through texts, read subheadings and the first sentences of the paragraphs they deem relevant. They look for transition words in order to quickly abstract what the main conclusion of an article will be.

All the things people do while reading your text are things Google will do. That means that the structure of your text, the way you write your paragraphs, becomes increasingly important. Core sentences – the first sentence of every paragraph – will need to contain the most important message of that paragraph. And having a clear and logical structure in your text will be invaluable.

Tips to keep your text readable

Let’s talk about how we can create easy reads. Before you start writing your text, think about the structure. What do you want to tell your audience and in what order? Is that a logical order of topics? Will your audience be able to follow your arguments, your examples and main message? Maybe you should try writing content with the inverted pyramid style?

Try to use short sentences where you can, as lengthy sentences are much harder to process. Avoid or limit the number of difficult words in a text. Try not to use complicated sentences and try to avoid the use of passive voice. Also, make sure to write in an appealing style. That can be really hard; not everyone has a talent for creative writing. It helps to mix it up a bit! Try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Avoid starting sentences with the same word. And check out our 5 tips to write a readable blog post.

We know writing readable copy is hard. Writing an unreadable text is a mistake that we see pretty often. That’s why we developed a readability analysis in Yoast SEO. It checks, for instance, if your sentences aren’t too long, if you don’t use passive voice too often and if the length of your paragraphs is okay. The analysis gives you tips about what you can improve on and you can even see which sentences need a second look. We’re continuously tweaking it, adding new checks and translating it into as many different languages as possible. We’re up to 18 languages right now! The analysis is available in our free and Premium Yoast SEO plugin.

One last tip: read it out loud!

Google’s Gary Illyes once tweeted that you should read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read nicely or sounds strange, it probably won’t rank either.

Let’s be clear: your rankings won’t immediately soar when you improve the readability of your texts. But, writing a readable blog post is an essential part of every SEO strategy. If you want your readers to read your entire blog post or page, your copy should be easy to read. Posts that are readable will definitely result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. So in the long run: readability ranks.

Keep on reading: SEO copywriting: the complete guide »

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Content maintenance strategy: 6 tips for a cleaner website

If you’ve been working on your website for a couple of years, chances are that your website has become a giant collection of posts and pages. When writing a post you might find out you’ve already written a similar article (maybe even twice) or you might get a feeling that you’ve written something related that you can’t find anymore. This can become even more complex when you’re not the only one writing for this website. Cleaning up your older content can be overwhelming, that’s why regular content maintenance is key. In this post, we’ll give you some tips to create a good content maintenance strategy!

1. Reserve time for content maintenance

It might be tempting, especially if you love writing, to keep on producing new content and never look back. But if you do this you might be shooting yourself in the foot. Your articles that are very similar to each other can start competing with each other in the search results. Having too much content that isn’t structured can also confuse site visitors, they might not know where to go on your website. And the more content you get, the more overwhelming cleaning up your content becomes. So, don’t wait too long with the implementation of a proper content maintenance strategy.

It’s a good idea to plan regular content audits and reserve some time to review older content. How often you should do that, depends on a few factors. Like the amount of content you already have, how often you publish new articles and how many people you have in your editorial team.

At Yoast, we plan team sessions with our blog team, every month or two, to improve existing content in a structured way. We create lists or do an audit (more on that later) and start cleaning up. But in addition to these team sessions, we also improve and update blog content in our usual publication flow. When we encounter articles that need updates we add them to our backlog, assign them to a team member and update or even republish it on our blog.

2. What does the data say?

When you sit down to actually go through your content and tidy up, it’s sensible to base your decisions on data. Apart from looking at the content on the page itself, you should answer the following questions:

Does the page get any traffic? Does it have a page value (meaning that the visitor completed one of your goals during the same session on your site)? How high is the bounce rate? How long do people stay on this page?

This kind of data can all be found in Google Analytics. If you go to Behaviour –> Site content –> All pages in the left-hand menu, you’ll get a nice overview of the traffic on your pages. You can even export this to a spreadsheet to keep track of what you did or decided to do with a page.

If you want to know how your articles perform in the search results, Google Search Console is a great help. Especially the performance tab tells you a lot about how your pages perform in Google. It tells you the average position you hold for a keyword, but also how many impressions and clicks your pages get. Check out our beginner’s guide to Google Search Console.

There are a number of tools that make this process easier by providing a list of your content and how it performs. This makes it easier to compare how certain (related) articles rank and get their traffic. One tool we like to use at Yoast is the content audit template by ahrefs. This gives you insights into which content is still of value to your site and which low-quality content is dragging you down. It will give you advice (leave as is/manually review/redirect or update/delete) per URL. Of course, we wouldn’t recommend blindly following such automated advice, but it gives you a lot of insight and is a great starting point to take a critical look at your content.

3. Always keep an eye on your most important content

While it’s not harmful if some older posts escape your attention while working on new content, there are posts and pages that you always need to keep an eye on. You’re probably already monitoring pages that convert; whether that’s in terms of sales, newsletter subscriptions, or a contact or reservation page. But you might also have pages that do (or could do) really well in the search engines. For instance, some evergreen, complete and informative posts or pages about topics you’re really an expert on. This is the content you want to keep fresh and relevant, and regularly link to. These are the posts and pages that should end up high in the search results.

In Yoast SEO Premium you can mark these types of guides as cornerstone content. This will trigger some specific actions in Yoast SEO. For instance, if you haven’t updated a cornerstone post in six months it gets added to the stale cornerstone content filter. You’ll find that filter in your post overview. It helps you stay on top of your SEO game by telling you whether any important content needs an update. Ideally, your score should be 0 there. If you do find some articles in this filter, it’s time to review those. Make sure all the information is still correct, add new insights and perhaps check competitors’ posts on the same topic to see if you’re not missing anything.

The stale cornerstone content filter in Yoast SEO for WordPress

4. Improve your internal linking

A content maintenance activity that is often highly underrated is working on your internal linking. Why invest time in internal linking? Well, first and foremost because the content you link to is of interest to your readers and helps you keep them on your site. But these links help search engines, such as Google, crawl your content and determine its importance. An article that gets a lot of links (internally or externally) is deemed important by Google. It also helps Google understand what content is related to each other. Therefore, internal linking is an important part of a cornerstone content strategy. All your pages, but especially the evergreen guides we discussed above need attention, regular updates, and lots of links!

So it’s good to link to your other posts while writing a new one. The internal linking suggestions tool in Yoast SEO Premium makes this super easy for you. But while it’s quite common to link to existing content from our new articles, don’t forget that those new articles also need links pointing to them. At Yoast, we do a weekly check whether our new posts – especially if we want them to rank! – have enough links pointing to them.

Implementing a cornerstone strategy

But what about the cornerstone content we discussed above? How do you make sure your most valuable content gets enough links? If you want to focus on these articles, Yoast SEO Premium has an awesome tool for you in store: the Cornerstone workout. In a few steps, it lets you select your most important articles and mark them as cornerstones. Then, it shows you how many internal links there are pointing to this post. Do you feel this isn’t in line with the number of links it should have? We’ll give you suggestions on which related posts to link from. And in just a few clicks, you can add the link from the right spot in the related post:

The cornerstone workout in Yoast SEO Premium

As you probably (hopefully!) don’t change your cornerstone strategy every month, it’s not necessary to do this workout every month. If you have a vast amount of content that performs quite well, checking this, let’s say every 3 or 6 months, you should be fine. However, if you’re starting out, publishing a lot of new content, or making big changes to your site, you should probably do this workout more often. As your site grows your focal point might change and this workout will help you make sure you stay focused on the content you really want to rank.

5. Clean up the attic once in a while

We mostly discussed your best and most important content until now. But on the other side of the spectrum, we have your older (and more lonely) content that you haven’t touched in a while. Announcements of events that took place years ago, new product launches from when you just started, and blog posts that simply aren’t relevant anymore. These posts keep filling up your attic and at one point you should clean your attic up thoroughly. You don’t want people or Google to find low-quality pages or pages showing outdated or irrelevant information and get lost up there.

There are some ways to go about this. You can, of course, go to your blog post archive and clean up while going through your oldest post. Never just delete something though! Take a closer look at the content and always check whether a post still gets traffic in Google Analytics. In doubt whether you should keep it? Read our blog on updating or deleting old content to help you with that choice. And, if you think a post is irrelevant and you want to delete it, you should either redirect it to a good equivalent URL or have it show a 410 page, indicating that it’s deleted on purpose. You can read all about properly deleting a post here.

Cleaning up orphaned content

Yoast SEO Premium also has an SEO workout to help you maintain old and forgotten content: the Orphaned content workout. It lists all of your unlinked content for you. Because you never or hardly linked to these pages, we can assume they’re pages you’ve once created but never looked back at. Or, they don’t fit into your current content strategy anymore. That’s why this is a good place to start cleaning up! With the workout, you can go through the post and pages one by one and consider: is this post not relevant anymore? Then delete and redirect the URL to a better destination in a few clicks! Is it still relevant but outdated? Then update it and start adding links to it from related posts. Did you just forget to link to this post? Then start adding some links! The workout takes you by the hand through all these steps so it’s easy to keep track of your progress.

content maintenance orphaned content workout yoast seo
The orphaned content workout in Yoast SEO Premium

How often should you do this workout? It’s hard to make a general statement about this because it very much depends on the amount of old content you have, how good your internal linking is, and how much new content you’re creating. If you have a bigger site, it will probably be quite a time investment when you do it the first time. But if you maintain it and do this workout regularly, on a monthly basis, for instance, you will get it done faster every time!

6. Check your content per topic/tag

When you have a lot of similar articles, they can start competing with each other in the search engines. We call that content or keyword cannibalization. That’s why it’s good to look at all the articles you have on a certain topic from time to time. Do they differ enough? Are they right below each other in Google’s search results on page 2? Then you might have to merge two articles into one to make that one perform better. Depending on the size of your site you can look at this on a category or tag level or even on smaller subtopics.

In the post on how to find and fix keyword cannibalization, we describe in detail how to go about this content maintenance process. In short, you’ll have to create an overview of the posts on that topic. Then look at how all of these articles perform with help of Google Search Console and Google Analytics. This will help you decide what to keep, merge or delete!

Content maintenance: you need time and tools!

As you might have already noticed, content maintenance can be quite a task. But if you do it regularly and use the right tools it gets easier over time. And the easier it gets the more fun! Who doesn’t want a tidied-up website? It will make you, your site visitors and Google very happy. So, don’t wait too long with a good content maintenance strategy and use the right tools to make your life easier!

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How to improve the accessibility of your website

Accessibility matters. And making sure that your website is accessible for everyone shouldn’t be an afterthought. It plays a big part in the usability of your website and that’s why Google is also focusing more on how accessible your content is. Fortunately, awareness is growing and platforms such as WordPress offer lots of possibilities to make your website more accessible. We’re well on our way, but there’s still lots of work to be done. In this blog post, we’ll tell you why you should focus on accessibility and which tools can help you!

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about how well your software or website can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities. Wikipedia puts it like this:

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).

It’s the ability for someone to access and benefit from a system or other entity, such as your website. To ensure this, accessibility focuses on enabling this access for people with disabilities.

In their webmaster guidelines, Google mentions the importance of making your content accessible. And although it’s not mentioned in so many words, they also have the following statement on their website: “Everyone should be able to access and enjoy the web. We’re committed to making that a reality.” Meaning that Google also sees that accessibility matters.

ccessibility matters

Even though the internet isn’t that old, most of us can’t imagine what life without it would look like. The web connects billions of people worldwide, regardless of where or who they are. The great thing about the internet is that it provides loads of information on pretty much any topic you can think of.

However, our worldwide population is made out of lots of different people. And every one of those people should have access to all the information that is freely available online. That’s why accessibility matters. Take, for example, everyone with a vision impairment. Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. In addition, color blindness affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women (0.5%). That’s quite a lot of people you’re missing out on when you’re not making your website accessible for them.

But there’s more!

Visual impairment is one of the things you need to consider, but definitely not the only one. Think of dyslexia and other reading difficulties or dexterity difficulties. Users with severe dexterity difficulties are unlikely to use a mouse and often rely on the keyboard instead. Have you ever tried to use your website, or our plugin for that matter, without using a mouse? It’s a tough job.

To give another example, a few years ago, we had a customer with hearing difficulties that wanted to take our all-around SEO training. He was faced with over two hours of videos without subtitles. It’s quite easy to add these and so we did.

We know it sounds like there’s a lot that you need to work on, that you might not have thought about before. But luckily there are lots of great tools that can help you figure out what you can still improve on. And if you have a website on WordPress, you’ll be glad to know that there’s actually an accessibility team that dedicates their time to making WordPress more accessible with every release. But that’s not the only platform that sees the importance, for example, Drupal is also working on its accessibility.

ccessibility tools

Do you want to make your website more accessible? That’s great! There are a few things you can do right away. The obvious things that are easily changed are your use of headings, contrast and descriptive links.

Use of headings

Headings help both search engines and users understand your text. It makes it easier for them to find out what a post or page is about. As Web Accessibility initiative W3C puts it: headings tell you more about the organization of content on a page, and web browsers or assistive technologies can use them to provide in-page navigation.

Headings help every one of your visitors figure out what your text is about. So make sure that they’re descriptive and nested the right way. Don’t just use them as a design element (“it’s the only way I know how to enlarge my text”) or to impact SEO (“I use all H1 headings, that makes it all very important to Google”). Both might seem like an easy solution, but they are bad practices as your headings should have a clear structure.

A tool that you can use to test the heading structure on your site is HeadingsMap. This extension for Chrome and Firefox allows you to view the heading structure of a page. It’s good to know that you should only use one H1 heading on your page, which should be the title of your page or post. After that, you can use H2 and H3 subheadings (or even H4 headings and beyond) to define sections in your text. Read more in our article on how to use headings on your website.

Color contrast

Color contrast is the difference in light (technically, luminance) between anything in the foreground, like text, and its background. If you pick a black background for your menu and use text that is very dark, this text will become very hard to read. And choosing two colors that look very contrasting to you, does not mean that this contrast is good enough for everyone. That’s why there are a few tools out there that you can use to audit the contrast on your page. For example, that checks contrast levels and gives information on the accessibility levels:

Example of two colors that get a bad score on contrast and readability

It also gives you a contrast ratio score based upon the W3C contrast guidelines, which consider 4.5:1 to be OK. As you can see in this example, the colors I’ve picked are nowhere near this minimum score.

The contrast checker is pretty straightforward. If you want to play around with contrast to find how this affects visits by for instance people that are colorblind, you might want to check the Color Contrast Analyser that comes with a color blindness simulator. Allowing you to preview designs as they might be seen by users with colorblindness.

If you’re a Mac user, Sim Daltonism is also a great tool. Like the Color Contrast Analyzer, it allows you to hover a website and test a number of colorblindness variations:

Accessibility tool Sim Daltonism

Descriptive links, alt text etc.

The last accessibility tool we’d like to highlight is one that tests how well your content holds up when a screen reader is being used. For a lot of people with visual impairment, this assistive technology helps them make sense of a page. A screen reader converts text, images, links and other elements into speech or braille. On a Mac, you can use VoiceOver (which is already on your computer) to test this. On a Windows computer, you can download NVDA for free.

Now, why would you want to ‘listen’ to how your content is being presented through a screen reader? Because it helps you experience your content from the perspective of someone who’s not able to see it. This helps you identify problems with reading order, table markup, images and other form elements and links on your page. Images without any alt text will not be described to this site visitor. And non-descriptive links with a text like ‘read more’ or ‘click here’ give no information whatsoever on where this link is taking you. These may seem like small things, but for someone who is experiencing these issues, it’s enough reason to leave your page straight away.

One more thing

The people at WAVE Web Accessibility created a tool to quickly identify a lot more rights and wrongs on your page. This is done completely automatically and will need a human eye to evaluate what improvements are realistic and which are not. We wouldn’t recommend using this as a replacement for the accessibility tools mentioned above, but it is definitely worth looking into!

All of the tools mentioned above and more can be found in the WordPress Accessibility Handbook.

It’s a continous process

All of this may feel a tad overwhelming, but you don’t have to fix everything today. Being aware of the importance is the first step. Now you can determine how accessible your pages are and what you still need to work on. Just don’t consider accessibility as an ‘extra’. If your website is not accessible, it will feel very unwelcoming for a considerable part of your audience. Also, following accessibility guidelines will improve your website for all of your visitors.

We at Yoast also work hard on making our website and Yoast SEO plugin more accessible. It’s an ongoing process that requires you to reevaluate every piece of software or content you’re putting out there. The important thing is to keep accessibility in mind and work on improving it where you can. If you want to learn more about accessibility and other essential SEO skills, make sure to check out our all-around SEO training.

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How to craft great page titles for SEO

Writing great page titles is an essential skill for anyone doing SEO. Why? Because the title tag can be the first thing a user sees in the search results and it’s also one of the most important factors that Google uses to determine the topic of a page. This makes page titles essential to SEO and this article covers both why you need great page titles and how to create them.

Table of contents

What is a page title? What’s the (SEO) purpose of a page title?What does the SEO title check in Yoast SEO do?How to write a title with an optimal width for SEOWhat does the keyphrase in title assessment in Yoast SEO do?How to use your keyphrase in the SEO titleShould you add your brand to the SEO title? Optimizing page titles after publicationTitles for social mediaConclusion: Page titles – craft them well!

Yoast SEO also checks if you’ve used your keyphrase in the SEO title. Read about how that check works, and how to use your keyphrase in the title.

What is a page title? 

Let’s start with the basics. If you look at the source of a page (right-click on the page, then choose View Page Source), you find a title in the head section. It looks like this:

This is an example page title –

This is the HTML title tag, which we also call the page title or SEO title. When you look something up in a search engine, you get a list of results that appear as snippets. Often, the SEO title is part of the snippet together with at least a URL and a meta description. Of course, some rich results also display ratings and other additional information.

An example of a snippet with an URL, meta description and title in the largest font

In most cases, the first thing people see, even before they get on your site, is the SEO title. Just to be clear, you should not confuse the SEO title with the main heading of the page. The main heading is what users see after they click on the SEO title and get on the page itself.

In tabbed browsers, you will usually also see the SEO title in the page tab, as shown in the image below.

A page title in a browser tab

But, Google won’t always use your page title

In August 2021, Google announced an update on how they generate web page titles. This means that sometimes they will show a different title in their search results than the one you set. Before we get into that, it’s good to note that in most cases (more than 80% of the time) the HTML title tag that your page outputs is still the most likely used.

Although we’re talking about an update here, Google deciding on how to display your page title in the search results is nothing new. They’ve been doing this for a while now. What is new is that they now want to use one title only, and won’t change it up anymore for different search queries. And that they will use different elements on your page to decide on what this title displayed in the search results will be. Elements such as your title tag, headings, prominent text on the page, and even how you link internally to this page.

So what does this mean for you? Right now these changes don’t require you to do anything different. The page title you set is still very likely to be used, and more importantly, your page title helps you rank for a keyword. These changes don’t impact your page rankings. The title you give is what Google will look at when deciding how your page ranks. Just like before.

But, with all these changes, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on how Google displays the titles of your most important pages! So we recommend you monitor the situation with your site for the time being. Keep an eye on Google Search Console, spot-check your search results, and look out for changes in the click-through and bounce rates for your key pages. If you find anything problematic (or just really, really wrong) you can let Google know in this feedback thread.

What’s the (SEO) purpose of a page title?

The purpose of your SEO title is to make people click on it, visit your website and read your post or buy your product. If your title is not good enough, people will ignore it and move on to other results. Essentially, there are two goals that you want to achieve with a title:

It must help you rank for a keyword;it must make the user want to click through to your page.

Google uses various signals when deciding how relevant you are for a specific keyword. Even if you’re initially ranking well, but nobody is clicking on your result, your rankings might deteriorate over time. The opposite is also true. At first, you may be positioned lower in the search results. But, if your title gets people to click on it, Google will notice. Consequently, over time, your rankings may improve.

Also, as mentioned before, Google uses what has been specified as your page title as ranking input. So it’s not just about those clicks, you also need to make sure that your page title reflects the topic being discussed on your page and the keyword that you’re focusing on. The page title you use has a direct influence on your ranking.

Now that you know about the importance of SEO titles, you’ll be pleased to know that Yoast SEO can help you craft them. In its SEO analysis, the plugin checks two crucial aspects of the SEO title: the width of your title and whether you use your keyword. 

What does the SEO title check in Yoast SEO do?

You find this assessment in the SEO tab of the Yoast SEO sidebar or meta box. If you haven’t written a title yet, the assessment will remind you to do so. In addition, Yoast SEO checks the width of your title. When it is too long, you will get a warning. We used to give you a warning if your title was too short as well, but we’ve changed that since our Yoast 17.1 release. A title with an optimal width gets you a green bullet in the analysis.

You can find the SEO title width check in the Yoast SEO sidebar or the meta box

How to write a title with an optimal width for SEO

If your title doesn’t have the right width, parts of it may be cut off in Google’s search results. How the result looks may vary, depending on the device you’re using. That’s why you can also check how your SEO title will look in the mobile and desktop search results in the Google preview in Yoast SEO. The tool uses the mobile version as a default, but you can also switch to view it in the desktop version.

Here’s a desktop result:

The Google preview in Yoast SEO lets you switch between the mobile and desktop results

And here’s the mobile result for the same URL:

example of mobile google preview
A mobile preview for this particular page

Width vs. length

Have you noticed that we talk about width rather than length? Why is that? Rather than using a character count, Google has a fixed width for the titles counted in pixels. While your title tags can be long and Google doesn’t have a set limit on the number of characters you can use, there is a limit on what’s visible in the search results. If your title is too wide, Google will cut it off visually. That might not be what you want. Also, you should avoid wasting valuable space by making the title too short. Not only that, the title often informs other title-like elements, such as the og:title , which also have display constraints.

Luckily our Google preview can help you out! You can fill in your SEO title and our plugin will give you feedback straight away. The green line underneath the SEO title turns red when your title is too long. So keep an eye on that, and use the feedback to create great titles.

Google preview in Yoast SEO
The Yoast SEO Google preview modal in the WordPress block editor

What does the keyphrase in title assessment in Yoast SEO do?

This assessment also appears in the SEO tab of the Yoast SEO sidebar and meta box. It checks if you’re using your keyphrase in the SEO title of your post or page. The plugin check for this is quite strict. Since Google uses the title to figure out your page’s topic, not having the focus keyphrase in the title may harm your rankings. In addition, potential visitors are much more likely to click on a search result that exactly matches what they were looking for. For the best results, you should try to add your keyphrase at the beginning of the SEO title.

This check finds out if you’ve used your focus keyphrase in your title

How to use your keyphrase in the SEO title

Sometimes, when you’re optimizing for a high-competition keyword, everyone will have the keyword at the beginning of the page title. In that case, you can try making it stand out by putting one or two words in front of your focus keyword, thereby slightly “indenting” your result. In Yoast SEO, if you start your SEO title with “the”, “a”, “who” or another function word followed by your keyphrase, you’ll still get a green bullet.

Other times, like when you have a very long keyphrase, adding the complete keyphrase at the beginning doesn’t make sense. If your SEO title looks weird with the keyphrase at the beginning, try to add as much of the keyphrase as you can, as early in the SEO title as possible. But always keep an eye on the natural flow and readability of your title.

Want to learn all about how to write a text that’s pleasant to read and optimized for search engines? Our SEO copywriting course can help you with that. You can get access to this course, and all of our other SEO courses, with Yoast SEO Premium. This also gives you access to extra features in the Yoast SEO plugin.

Go Premium and get access to this feature!

Get access to lots of features and all of our SEO courses with the Yoast SEO Premium plugin:

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Should you add your brand to the SEO title?

For quite some time it was a fashion among some SEOs to leave the site name out of the page title. The idea was that the “density” of the title mattered, and the site name wouldn’t help with that. Don’t do this. Your page title needs to have your brand in it, preferably in a recognizable way. If people search for a topic and see your brand several times, even if they don’t click on it the first time, they might click when they see you again on their next page of results.

If you don’t include your site name in your title tag, you’ll also run the risk of Google automatically changing the title for you. As explained in our article on why isn’t Google showing my page title, Google thinks it needs to be there too. If you want to read more about branding, be sure to read this post by Marieke: 5 tips on branding.

Optimizing page titles after publication

A while ago, while looking at our Google Search Analytics data for, I noticed that, while we ranked well for [wordpress security], we weren’t getting a lot of traffic for it. I optimized the page title and meta description for our WordPress security article and this increased traffic by over 30%. My changes to the title were done around the same time as the update – indicated by the vertical line in the graph below:

search analytics showing increase in clicks to page

The change was fairly simple. Instead of the title being:

WordPress Security • Yoast

I changed it to:

WordPress Security in a few easy steps! • Yoast

As you can see, this doesn’t necessarily improve the rankings of this page at all. From a keyword perspective, the title isn’t much better, but it is more enticing, and it did lead to many more clicks, which, of course, was the desired result.

Titles for social media

What might be a good title tag for SEO isn’t necessarily a good title for social media. In social media, keyword optimization is less important than creating a title that entices people to click. You often don’t need to include the brand name in the title. This is especially true for Facebook and Twitter if you include some form of branding in your post image. Our social previews in Yoast SEO Premium can help you with that.

If you’re using Yoast SEO, you can have a separate title for Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Just enter the Google title in the Yoast SEO snippet editor. The Facebook and Twitter title can be entered on the social tab in their respective fields. If you don’t enter a specific Twitter title, Twitter will use the Facebook title instead.

Conclusion: Page titles – craft them well!

In conclusion, the main point of this article is to encourage you to invest a little more time in writing good page titles. It really is worth it. Going back and optimizing some of your page titles after publication might also be worthwhile. This is especially true if you’re already ranking well, but aren’t getting very many clicks.

Read more: How to create the right meta description »

The post How to craft great page titles for SEO appeared first on Yoast.

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Online audience research: how to analyze your audience

To write appealing copy for your online audience, you need to know them. Who are those people that read your stories? Who are the people that search for the terms you want to be found for? Where do they come from? How old are they? What are they interested in? And how will you be able to reach those people again? In this post, I’ll help you with researching and analyzing your audience, as this is essential for SEO.

Why it’s important to analyze your audience

If you don’t know much about your audience, it can be quite hard to write texts for them. Should you write texts that are difficult or very easy to read? Which topics will interest them the most? Which search terms do they use? What blog post will make them come back to your site? These questions are especially important if you want your audience to become regular visitors of your website or if you want them to buy something in your online shop. And that’s when audience analysis comes in handy! If you know a lot about your audience, it will be much easier to adapt your texts to fit their needs. As a result, you’ll become more successful in selling your stuff and gaining those return visitors. 

What kind of people are your online audience?

A good place to start researching your online audience is in your website or social media user data. This can help you find out all kinds of helpful information about your audience. Or audiences. You may not have considered it before, but there could be different groups of users visiting your site for different purposes! You should analyze your audience to find out what kind of people are visiting your site, and use that information to adapt your content.

udience analysis in Google Analytics

The best way to start analyzing your audience is by using Google Analytics. Google Analytics will tell you at what time a day your audience is on your site; where they’re from (at least from which country); which pages they like most and whether they use a desktop or a mobile device. That’s all valuable and usable information.

Closely monitor which pages and blog post generate much traffic and investigate possible patterns. Perhaps posts about a certain topic generate a lot of traffic, while posts about other topics don’t get many visitors. Use that information when choosing the topic of your next blog post.

A sample of the kind of data you can find in Google Analytics

Social media audience analysis

Google Analytics can tell you a lot about the visitors on your website, but if you want to know more about the people you reach on Facebook you’ll need to use Facebook Insights. Check which posts get many views and which posts don’t get attention from your audience. Experiment with buying ads on Facebook too.

Of course, every social media platform has its own analytics (we’ve also written about YouTube Analytics, Twitter Analytics and Pinterest Analytics). Monitor the analytics of the channels you use on a regular basis.

Not the audience you were hoping for?

If you find yourself surprised by the kind of people in your online audience, there are two things you can do with that information:

Firstly, you could ask yourself why your website isn’t reaching your target audience, or why your content isn’t appealing to them when they see it in the search results or on social media. Are you using the same keywords those people will be searching in Google? Do your SEO title and meta description match with their search intent (and does the content on the page live up to that promise)? These kinds of things can help you reach your intended audience and keep them coming back.

Alternatively, you might not have the online audience you were expecting, but it is an audience, and they came to your site for a reason! So another option is to learn more about your actual audience, and make more content with them in mind.

Finding out more about your online audience

Regardless whether you choose to grow your existing online audience(s), adapt your content to target a different audience, or both, the next step in analyzing your audience is the same. You need to find out more about these people and what they want!

Do surveys

A great way of getting to know your audience is to have them fill out an online questionnaire. In a survey, you can ask them anything you want.  You can, for instance, set up a survey that pops up when someone enters your site or you can send a survey invitation to your newsletter subscribers or to the buyers of your products. There are lots of packages that allow for online questionnaires. Many services offer a free account, which will suffice for most small companies.

Remember that most people do not participate in online surveys. Still, if your audience is large, you’ll easily get a decent amount of people to fill out your questionnaire. To get more participants you can always try to win them over by raffling a nice incentive among the respondents.

Please note that it’s always a certain group of people that’ll be willing to fill out a survey. That group is highly selective and not representative for your entire online audience.

Talk to your audience

Analyzing your audience doesn’t always need to be a desk activity! Just having a conversation with a part of your audience also remains a great way to find out more about them. In an online questionnaire, you can ask a lot of people about your product, but their answers will probably remain shallow. If you’re able to really talk to some of the people from your audience in person, that could help you to get a better idea about who your audience are. Ask them what they like best about your website, your products, or your blog posts. Ask them why they come back to your website. Invite them to talk about their experience and don’t be scared of some criticism.

For instance, if I’m at a WordCamp or a congress somewhere and I encounter people using our Yoast SEO plugin, I always like to ask them what they appreciate most about our product. It helps me to understand our users. And, by understanding our users, we’re better able to anticipate their needs. If we know which features in Yoast SEO they like best, we should optimize or expand those features for sure.

Read comments and discussions

If you want to analyze your audience and find out what kind of people it consists of, you should look at the comments on your blog post. What are people saying about you or about your post in the comments below your articles? Which aspects of your blog post are they talking about in their comments? Which topics are so important to them, that they are willing to engage? Analyze audience comments on your website, and don’t forget to monitor comments on social media too!

Aside from the comments your audience are leaving on your website and social media, you could also take a look at what they’re talking about on other websites too. Sites like Reddit and online discussion forums can be a treasure-trove of information. If you can find out where your audience are hanging out online, be sure to take a look and see what they’re talking about!

nalyzing online audiences is hard, but valuable

In conclusion, researching your audience can be a tough nut to crack. Google Analytics and the analytic tools of the numerous social media platforms are useful, but they don’t tell you much about the intentions or desires of your audiences. Surveys are great, but as most people won’t fill out an online questionnaire, the data aren’t that valid and representative for your entire audience. Talking to your audience can bring useful insights, but you won’t be able to have a conversation with all of them either.

All the different ways of analyzing your audience do add value in their own way though. However, by using them all you will get a clear impression of your audience. So don’t just sit there wondering who’s behind those clicks. Get to know them!

Read on: An introduction to user research »

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Six things missing from your competitor research

30-second summary:

There are ways to save and optimize your SEO budget, here’s howStart with creating an “at a glance” report comparing your competitors’ key metrics. Find interesting trends to look further into!Analyze and monitor your competitors’ online sentiment and customer satisfaction. How can you become better than your competitors?Identify your competitors’ marketing priorities by looking at their competitors’ PPC tactics. Note their branded keywords they are bidding on: what do they consider their competitors?Research your competitors’ branded questions by analyzing “People Also Ask” and monitoring tweeted questions from their customers and brand ambassadorsAnalyze your competitors’ social media marketing tactics: what can you learn from these and which should you avoid?

1. Competitors at a glance for domain analysis

You can never have just one competitor in the real world. In some niches, you’ll end up with ten or more competitors that need your attention. Where to start?

This is the section I usually start my competitive report with: competitors at a glance which is a chart letting me easily compare my competitors.

What should be included in this section?

This section includes any metrics that would allow you to spot some key trends:

How new or old is this competitor?How many backlinks has your competitor managed to acquire?What’s their website traffic?How large is the website?

Seeing all these numbers side by side often allows you to see important niche patterns or spot some interesting cases to explore further. For example, you can identify a new competitor that nonetheless gets a lot of organic traffic. Or you can find a competitor with fewer backlinks that managed to build solid web visibility. These are both good cases to learn from.

Here’s an example of how I use an “at a glance” method for my competitive research that is also color-coded based on how successful each competitor is (green showing very good numbers). 

Source: Screenshot made by the author

2. Online sentiment and customer satisfaction

How happy are your competitors’ customers? Is there an opportunity for your product here? Is there a particular feature or aspect that makes your competitors’ customers unhappy?

Knowing why your competitors’ customers are unhappy helps on many levels, from learning the mistakes you need to avoid, to developing a better product that covers a niche gap.

So why do so many competitive reports fail to include this section?

And that report is pretty easy to generate. Sentiment analysis and monitoring are doable with some advanced social listening that dives into the segmentation of consumer sentiment.

Sentiment analysis
Source: Awario

3. PPC keywords

Most competitive reports include organic keywords and positions but how about PPC keywords? 

Whether you are planning to invest in paid ads or not, knowing your competitor’s PPC keywords will help you understand what they are focusing on. It’s a smart way to understand high and low competition keywords without having to spend your own dollars.

When looking through my competitors’ PPC keywords, I always pay attention to their branded keywords. Firstly, it shows the competitors they as a business take seriously. And second, this may inform my own PPC decisions as there’s a solid case for bidding on branded keywords because they tend to have high intent and are often cheaper.

Here’s an example of a branded keyword report from Ahrefs. Notice the ‘Traffic’ column estimating the number of clicks a particular PPC keyword is bringing to the target site:

Analysis PPC keywords to inform your keyword strategy
Source: Screenshot made by the author

4. Branded questions

Niche question research is useful on many levels but have you ever given a thought on how useful it is for your competitive research? Questions people ask about your competitors will give you valuable insight into:

Your competitors’ drawbacks (and how you can practically fill that need gap in the market)Your customers’ failures (and how to avoid them)Your target customers’ journeys (and how to best approach them)

When it comes to understanding your niche buying journeys, Google’s People Also Ask results, also known as ‘intent questions’ help you understand and visualize all the different paths consumers are taking when making their buying decisions.

Branded questions
Source: Screenshot made by the author

Always take note of the “People Also Ask” results when searching for your competitors or their products. These help you better understand your target customers’ interests and research styles throughout their buying journeys.

Source: AlsoAsked

You could also use some freemium-based tools to keep track of questions your competitors’ customers are asking in real-time, use Twitter question search which can also be monitored through a free app called Tweetdeck. Create a new column in your Tweetdeck to monitor this search term:

[competitor ?]

Make sure there’s a space in between your competitor’s brand name and the question mark.

Source: Screenshot made by the author

5. Your competitors’ promoters

Who are your competitors’ most vocal promoters? Can you get them on board to promote your brand instead? Or how did your competitors manage to win their love?

Your competitors’ friends are not your enemies. These are people who may fall in love with your product or agree to collaborate on similar or better terms.

Checking your competitors’ backlinks is the most popular way to find their promoters but it seldom includes people behind those links

Social media is another great place to look for your competitors’ promoters.

6. Social media content

Are your competitors using social media to find and engage your customers? There are some lessons to learn there as well.

You can run a solid analysis of any Facebook page engagement metrics which you can use for your competitive report:

Social media analysis
Source: Screenshot made by the author


Competitive research is much more than tracking your competitors’ organic positions and checking their backlinks from time to time. 

It can give you a lot of insight into your target customers, their struggles, and buying journeys, it can teach you to build a better project and identify niche gaps. Finally, it can help you identify mistakes to avoid and build a stronger business. Good luck!

Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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The post Six things missing from your competitor research appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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What is search intent and why is it important for SEO?

SEO is a way to get more traffic to your website. By ranking high on Google, you attract more people to your site which leads to more sales and returning visitors. To get people to your site, you need to optimize your content for the right words. However, to increase your chances of ranking, convincing people to buy your stuff, subscribing to your newsletter, or even coming back to your website, you should take search intent into account. In this post, we’ll tell you what search intent is and how you can optimize your content for search intent.

What is search intent?

Search intent (or user intent, audience intent) is the term used to describe the purpose of an online search. It’s the reason why someone conducts a specific search. After all, everyone who does an online search is hoping to find something. But is someone looking for an answer to a question they have? Are they looking to visit a specific website? Or, are they searching online because they want to buy something? Many of these types of searches are part of the user journey online, but oftentimes they represent different stages.

Over the years, Google has worked hard to improve its algorithm to be able to determine people’s search intent. Google wants to rank pages that best fit the search term someone is using, as well as the search intent behind the search query. That’s why you need to make sure that your post or page fits the search intent of your audience.

4 types of search intent

There are a few distinct types of search intent. We’ll go into the four most commonly used ones:

1. Informational intent

Let’s start with informational intent. Lots of searches on the internet are done by people looking for information. This could be information about the weather, information about educating children, information about SEO, you name it. People with an informational intent have a specific question or want to know more about a certain topic.

Google’s search results for the term ‘Tomato sauce’

You should be aware that Google’s understanding of intent goes much further than simply showing results that give information about a specific term. It knows, for instance, that people looking for [tomato sauce] are most likely looking for recipes, not for the sauce’s culinary history. It understands that most people typing in [Mercury] are looking for the planet, not the element. Google even understands that for some search terms, like [how to build a bird feeder], it’s handy to include videos and images.

2. Navigational intent

The second type of search intent is called navigational intent. People with this intent want to visit a specific website. For example, people who search for [Facebook] online are usually on their way to the Facebook website. So you want to make sure that your website can be found when someone searches for your company’s name online.

Example of navigational search intent: screenshot of Google's results for search term Yoast
Google’s search results for the term ‘Yoast’

Keep in mind that ranking high for a navigational term is mainly beneficial if your site is the site people are looking for. A few years ago, we had a Google Analytics plugin and we ranked pretty well for the term [Google Analytics]. But that didn’t drive any traffic to our site. People searching for [Google Analytics] specifically were looking for the Google Analytics website and were often not interested in our plugin.

3. Transactional intent

The third type of search intent is transactional intent. Lots of people buy stuff online and browse the web to find the best purchase. People are searching with transactional intent when their purpose is to buy something at that moment. Often that means that they already know exactly what they want to buy and just want to get to that product page right away.

Example of transactional search intent: screenshot of Google's search results for IKEA PS 2014 lamp
Google’s search results for the term ‘IKEA ps 2014 lamp’

4. Commercial investigation

Some people have the intention to buy in the (near) future and use the web to do their research. What washing machine would be best? Which SEO plugin is the most helpful? These people also have transactional intent but need some more time and convincing. These types of search intents are usually called commercial investigating intents.

Example of commercial investigation intent: screenshot of Google's results for search term best washing machines 2021
Google’s search results for the term ‘best washing machines 2021’

Keyword intent

The words people use in their search queries give us insight into user intent. This also works the other way around. By formulating keywords with intent-specific words you can increase your chances of being seen by people with matching search intent.

What do we mean by intent-specific words? Well, keywords with transactional intent will often contain words like:

buydealdiscountproduct names

To give another example, informational searches can (but don’t necessarily have to) contain words like:

informationhow tobest way towhy

How to optimize your content for search intent

Why are we telling you all of this? Because you want to make sure that a landing page fits the search intent of your audience. If people are looking for information, you don’t want to show them a product page. At least, not immediately. You’ll probably scare them away. But if someone wants to buy your product and lands on one of your lengthier blog posts, you might lose them. In this case, you want to lead them to your shop and the right product page.

Optimizing your product pages for commercially driven keywords is a good idea. For instance, if you sell dog vitamins, you could optimize a product (category) page for the search term [buy dog vitamins]. Perhaps you also have an article about administering vitamins. You could optimize that article for the search term [how to give vitamins to my dog] and aim it at people with informational intent.

Research your audience’s search intent

Sometimes it can be quite hard to determine the search intent of a query. And perhaps different users that use the same search term will have a (slightly) different user intent. Luckily, there is a direct source to look at if you want to know which intent fits your keywords best: the search results pages. Find out how you can use the results pages to create great content that’s intent-based.

If you want to know more about the search intent of your audience, another way is to ask them. You could make a short survey, containing questions about what people are searching for and make that survey pop up when people visit your website. That’ll probably give you some valuable insights into your audience and their intent. Do make sure not to be too intrusive with these kinds of pop ups as this can hurt the user experience on your website.


It’s crucial to ensure that the content you’re writing fits both the terms people are searching for, as well as the search intent of your audience. Make sure your post or page is informational when people are looking for information. Be the first result when someone searches for your company name. Provide content that helps people make an informed decision when they’re still investigating their options. But lead people to your sales pages if they are looking to buy one of your products.

Read more: Keyword research: the ultimate guide »

The post What is search intent and why is it important for SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

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Different Types Of Internet Marketing Strategies And Their Purpose

internet marketing

Digital Marketing is an internet marketing strategy that involves creating, promoting, and selling products or services over the internet using digital networks like the World Wide Web (WWW), emails, and mobile apps. Digital marketing is now one of the most popular internet marketing techniques being used by businesses all around the world. The internet provides a huge platform for businesses to reach their consumers and create loyal repeat customers. Digital marketing enables companies to improve their customer service and develop brand recognition.

Traditional advertising methods can be expensive, but digital marketing efforts are highly targeted and can result in massive returns in a shorter period of time. Traditional advertising campaigns often include TV ads, newspapers, magazines, billboards, and other print advertising which can be very costly. Traditional advertising campaigns also do not give the advertiser immediate exposure and often fail to reach a large audience. Digital internet marketing can increase the reach of an advertisement by adding unique elements such as video to increase viewer awareness, as well as offering targeted content that is tailored to the interests of the target audience.

Effective internet marketing is part of a comprehensive package of business strategies that includes search engine optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC), and content marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO), which involves making keywords and key phrases highly visible to potential customers; is an important but often overlooked part of a wider campaign. Keywords and key phrases need to be consistently used in online marketing to gain maximum exposure. SEO can also significantly improve the quality of traffic to websites. Poor keyword selection can have disastrous effects on a website’s ranking which can ultimately lead to poor rankings and traffic that will eventually bounce a website off the search engine indexing list.

Search engine optimization is vital to achieving good search engine rankings because it increases the number of visitors to a website from web pages listed in the search engines. It also improves the chances of a website being clicked on when someone is searching for particular products or services offered by the company that employs the internet marketing expert. Web-Pages are also ranked based on their popularity, which is determined by a complex mathematical algorithm. To get an online business to rank high for particular search terms, a web-master should employ an internet marketing expert that has the knowledge and experience to use proven strategies and methods to the fullest effect. Expertise is required when employing these strategies because sometimes the best-laid plans go astray.

A variety of digital marketing campaigns are available to drive traffic and generate sales through the internet. These include pay per click (PPC) where the company only pays for visitors that click on its advertisements, social media marketing, search engine optimization, viral marketing campaigns, video marketing, and video creation. All of these different strategies are aimed at increasing the company’s profitability and driving traffic to company web pages.

Before starting any type of online marketing campaign, you should first determine your budget and the objectives you have for your company. You will then need to determine what services you will be offering and how you will be promoting those services online. Once you have decided on these things you can start to research and plan your strategy. It can be helpful to first talk with other companies who are already offering similar services online to get a better sense of what your competitors are doing and the best way to get started.

Content marketing can be one of the best and most cost-effective online marketing strategies to use. In this strategy, you create content, such as articles, blog posts, and press releases, and then offer them to websites that need them. Content marketing can be an excellent way to drive traffic and boost sales since most visitors are looking for information about a product or service and if you provide well-researched information then you will have a better chance of convincing the visitor to make a purchase.

Search Engine Marketing or SEM can help increase the visibility of your site in the search engines. Search Engine Marketing works by using pay-per-click campaigns and organic SEO strategies. The goal of SEM is to improve the quality of your traffic and website rankings and ultimately increase your conversions. SEM tends to be a bit more expensive than content marketing but it can be well worth the investment. With SEM, you have the potential to reach a much broader audience and potentially create more business than you would with content marketing alone.