New Structured Snippets: An Enhanced SERP Snippet Is Just a Table Away

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New Structured Snippets: An Enhanced SERP Snippet Is Just a Table Away was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

On September 22, the Google Research Blog announced Structured Snippets, a feature that “incorporates facts into individual results snippets in Web Search.” What it amounts to is elements from an HTML table being shown right in the SERP. If this sounds at all like Structured Data, it should. Sort of. Google displays data from your website on their results page, yet it doesn’t require schema markup or any other specialized coding. All you need is a table. Oh, and relevant data.

The Google post has an example of a Structured Snippet for the query “Nikon d7100”:

structured snippet in google serp for nikon d7100

In order to test these results out, we found the table below from Car and Driver. It’s formatted as a classic table, without any structured markup.

car and driver fast facts

And here is how it appears in the SERP:

google structured snippet serp for dodge challenger

As you can see, the data about the Dodge Challenger in the SERP listing above isn’t quite as easy to read as Google’s Nikon example, but the information is there.

This announcement has been greeted with a fair amount of skepticism, as many webmasters and content creators are frustrated that Google has found yet another way to take data from websites and present it on the search engine’s own pages, consequently stealing clicks from websites that actually published the data originally. But the fact is that there are several reasons to welcome this latest innovation.

Optimizing Structured Snippets

As is often the case, whether you welcome or dread it, this change has a lot to do with perspective. Google introduced this change to improve user experience, so webmasters should have the same goal in mind when thinking of how to include interesting information in tables on their website to garner more attention in the SERPs. Here are some benefits to Structured Snippets:

  1. Challenges webmasters, designers and marketers to reexamine how we present information. A well-made table is an engagement object. It’s helpful for users, and it breaks up long blocks of text. Tables just became another tool in your content utility belt.
  2. No special markup required. Google said it, and based on all the examples we’ve seen, it’s true; you don’t need to learn some new technology to make the most of this change. Got data that would look good/be easier to read in a table? Great. Make that table.
  3. More real estate on the SERP. So far I haven’t heard anyone mention this, but in some instances, like in the Nikon example above, the amount of space for your entry nearly doubles. While it’s possible that Google pulling data from your website and putting it in SERPs may lower your click-through rate, it’s also possible that getting a larger entry in the SERP could help your CTR.

What Structured Snippets Mean for the Future of Search

First off, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: the death of structured data. This isn’t cause for letting your schema markup fall by the wayside; if anything, Structured Snippets reinforce the importance of structured data overall. Why? Because both tools enable search engines to determine A) what your page is about, and B) how relevant it is to search queries. Search engines, as they’re always pointing out, exist to serve users, not webmasters. All of this structuring things allows search engine spiders to efficiently crawl your site and figure out who’s looking for what you’re offering.

It’s possible, and I’m really speculating here, that Meta tags (Title, Description, and the seldom-used Keywords tags) will become less and less important over time. Search engines know that it’s too easy to offer over-optimized Titles (can you say “clickbait”?) and so they’re beginning to look directly into your content; after all, how long has Google been presenting snippets of content in the SERP, where it used to always just be your Meta description? Structured Snippets are one more way to let spiders, and users, get your data quickly and easily.

Search Engine Land points out that Structured Snippets could cause some difficulty for websites that use responsive design, however, as tables are tough to format for mobile devices. Probably worth taking a page from Wikipedia’s playbook in formatting tables for a variety of devices.

One thing that is certain, is that those who make the most of this new tool stand to gain the most ground over those who are slow to adapt.

October 17th 2014 Google, SEO

Homepage optimization

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Homepage OptimizationHomepage SEO does not exist. That was the statement in the post I did last week. However, a lot of the people that commented on our site, and on Twitter and Facebook, still feel that a homepage should be optimized for a keyword. Perhaps optimizing your homepage for search engines works for some of you, but ranking in Google should definitely not be the only purpose of your homepage! In this post I want to explore the main purpose of your homepage and give tips on how to optimize your homepage to make it totally awesome!

What is your website about?

The first homepage optimization tip is of course to check what your website is about. This seems obvious, but your mission, the uniqueness of your website, should be reflected on your homepage.

Is your homepage just a large list of products and services, or did you actually take the time to write a decent welcome for your visitors? Now one of the most annoying things a website owner can do, is actually write ‘welcome to our website’ of course. By welcoming your visitor, I mean telling him what can be found on your website. What is your main product or service? What can be found on your products and on your company itself on the website? And most important: what is the main benefit (USP; Unique Selling Point) for the visitor?

But isn’t this just common sense?

Make your USP specific

The second homepage optimization tip is to make your Unique Selling Point clear. A couple of years ago, Joost and some other SEO’s did a live site review during WordCamp Netherlands and one of the sites being reviewed had exactly that problem. It was absolutely unclear what that company was bringing the customer. I think it was a business coaching website that had a tagline like: “Helping you improve yourself!”. That isn’t a great intro / tagline, as it tells absolutely nothing about the purpose of the company. It might as well be selling great running shoes, helping you improve your running, right? Make sure your introductory content is about the key benefits for the visitor you offer. “Coaching consultants using self-reflection” would already tell a visitor a lot more.

Is this Homepage SEO?

In the above homepage for PawEdu (yes, it’s a slider, I know – but I really like the b/w images), it is very clear what the purpose of the website is. Yes, the three larger words could apply to more websites, but the tagline below it and the image add nuance to these words.

In most cases, that could indeed mean getting back to a boring business tagline. I’m not a big fan of the vague descriptions half of today’s companies seem to use. That only works when you have the marketing budget to make it your own. We all know what company tells me that I’m Lovin’ It.

But clarity isn’t the only thing that matters on your homepage.

Guide your visitor

A third purpose of your homepage is guidance to your visitor. You should make sure your homepage guides your visitor to your main pages. Of course your homepage needs the introduction or tagline I described above. But that one would be useless if your homepage wouldn’t allow the visitor to click to your main or money pages. These would be the pages where the deal is closed, the product is sold or the contact form can be filled out.

Of course there are more, but these are the obvious ‘guides’ on most homepages:

  • Sliders, or better alternatives
    It’s pretty obvious that we at Yoast don’t like sliders. Still, a slider is used very often to promote these pages. The lack of attention these pages get, is one of the reasons why we don’t like sliders. But that slider area is a great spot for guidance. If you would add an image of your featured product, including a great call-to-action button, that would make sense. If you want to rotate that with every browser refresh, I’m the last one to stop you. It’s a great way to make your homepage appear different with every visit.
  • Menu
    The most obvious one is of course the menu. Have your thought about what is in your menu? Is it structured and focused? Let me give you an example: this is the menu of a financial consultant we reviewed a while ago:
    Be clear
    Start Here could be a call-to-action, of course. But Hard Choices is just too general. In the end, I would replace both with names that describe the content after the click.
  • Products
    If you have an online shop, the possibilities are endless. But don’t add the entire category list in your sidebar. Focus on your most visited categories and add these in a prominent spot on your homepage. Add your best selling product to the homepage, perhaps in that larger image we mentioned at ‘sliders’ above. Be creative. Your homepage seems the best spot on your site to announce a new product, for instance. If your shop has a sale, make sure that people notice it on the homepage.
  • Search as a call-to-action
    In around 80% of the sites we review, the search bar is located in the header or footer. If you are selling thousands of products, or if you have written over a hundred articles on your site, chances are that a search bar will come in handy for your visitor. Why not make that one your main call-to-action and list it as the main element (instead of that slider) on your website? Doing this is actually step two. Step one is making sure your search result pages look decent.
  • Contact
    You also have to realize that a (returning) visitor could just be looking for your contact details. List a link to your contact page where one would expect it. That could be in the last spot in your menu, but could also be an address in your footer, or a (short) contact form in the sidebar.

Do not clutter!

Do not go overboard in guidance on your website! One of my favorite words of the last decade is ‘clutter’. Don’t clutter your homepage with all kind of actionable guides, but pick two or three that make sense on a site like yours. And focus on these.

Is this Homepage SEO?

This is a great example of a focused homepage. TrendyPeas has even thought of making that call-to-action a distinctive color. One could argue about the three ‘extras’ on the right of the menu, but due to the use of faded tabs and the hard yellow call-to-action in the main image, I think it works. The extra focus on the Halloween menu item is subtle next to the large image below it and the blue tagline in the header above it.

Homepage Optimization: the conclusion

Your homepage should make clear what people can find on your website. It should focus on your unique selling point. And, it should guide your visitors to your most important pages. Perhaps you can focus on these things and still optimize your homepage for a certain keyword. What do you think about that?

Of course your website is more than just your homepage. If you want to optimize your entire site, be sure to check our site reviews. We will do a complete website review starting from $699!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

October 15th 2014 SEO

Q and A: Will changing my PDF document title impact my search rank?

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QuestionHi Kalena

When optimizing a PDF, Adobe Acrobat allows users to choose if they want to display the document’s file name or its title in the title bar at the top of the document (File>Properties>Initial View>Windows Options).

During a recent talk about PDF creation I was asked if changing what’s displayed from the default file name to the actual document title would have an impact on search results.

My gut feeling is that it has a positive impact, but I don’t know enough about SEO to actually confirm this. Do you know?

Thanks heaps!



Hi Diane

Your gut is right! The way you name your PDF file can impact where it ranks in search results.

A lot of webmasters believe that PDFs can’t be indexed, but in fact, Google has been able to index PDF files since 2001. Despite the different encodings used in PDFs, Google can extract useful data from them, provided they’re not encrypted or password protected. If text is embedded as images, Google can even process the images with OCR algorithms to extract the text.

Just like other web pages, PDF files have the ability to rank highly in search results, depending on their content, if they have been optimized and also depending on the way they’re embedded and linked to from other web pages.

Google uses two main elements to determine the title shown for PDFs: the title meta-data within the file, and the anchor text of links pointing to the PDF file. You can influence the title shown in search results for your PDF document by updating both. Doing this gives the algorithms a strong signal about which title to use.

Links embedded in PDF files are treated similarly to links in HTML: they can pass PageRank and other indexing signals, and Google may follow them after crawling the PDF file.

You can pick up some more tips for optimizing PDF files in these resources:

Hope this helps.


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October 13th 2014 Google, SEO

Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Mosh Pit

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Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Mosh Pit was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

It’s Pubcon’s 15th birthday (and the final panel), and you know it’s a party when there’s beer and cake and an SEO Mosh Pit, a Q&A session where conference attendees get to ask their questions of some of digital marketing’s best minds and leaders, including Bruce Clay, about the current SEO state of affairs.

A panel of

A panel of digital marketing’s best minds at Pubcon’s SEO Mosh Pit

Leading the charge is moderator, Brett Tabke, Pubcon CEO. Introducing the SEO Mosh Pit panel and their predictions for SEO in 2015:

Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc.

The industry will be 90 percent mobile within a year, and it will change everything.

Gareth Hoyle, Co Founder / CEO, LinkRisk / Marketing Signals

Google will give more clarity to updates and Matt Cutts was kicked out because of Penguin!

Joe Laratro, President, Tandem Interactive

Just introduces himself, no predictions.

Jenny Halasz, President, JLH Marketing

A Dismal prediction: the divide between SMB and enterprise will widen and it will be hard for small businesses to compete in the space.

Tony Wright, CEO/Founder, WrightIMCG

He welcomes the Google overlords, as it takes content from websites and displays it for its own monetization.

Eric Enge, CEO, Stone Temple Consulting Corporation

Dramatic expansion in Knowledge Graph and answer boxes. More structured snippets, and more webmasters won’t like it.

Mike Grehan, CMO & Managing Director, ACRONYM

Matt Cutts is a multi-millionaire and doesn’t need to work anymore.

Greg Boser, President & Co-founder, Foundation Digital, LLC

Mobile is going to be huge, predatory aggregation is going to be huge, and we will all be here moaning about Google and its products.

First Question from Brett Tabke: Is SEO dead? Should it be called something else?

GARETH HOYLE – SEO is never going to be dead, it’s just going to change what we do. It’s never going to die, and will become 5 spots as opposed to 10.

ERIC ENGE – SEO is never going to die, but there are new technologies coming out that someone needs to be on the front lines of trying to figure out, discovering new ways to get traffic. The SEOs of tomorrow will always be figuring out new stuff.

JENNY HALASZ – SEO will never go away. There is an intersection between content that people want to see and availability of the content. There is also “Subject Experience Optimization.”

BRUCE CLAY – Many years ago he said, “SEO is dead as long as it’s alone.” Because SEO is part of larger digital marketing, there is always something new. Every Monday, SEO is a brand new industry. As long as there are web pages, there will be SEO, and it will be integrated with all forms of digital marketing.

TONY WRIGHT – SEO has come back from the dead so many times. If you can’t adapt to change, then you are in the wrong business. To most, SEO is dead, but to the rest of us, we figure out what works, and we implement it. SEO is not dead as an industry.

MIKE GREHAN – Danny Sullivan was in his office recently, and together they reminisced over an interview from 14 years ago and they couldn’t recognize what SEO was.

Next Question: Does Google have too much power and influence in our lives?

JENNY HALASZ – A simple “yes.”

GARETH HOYLE – Google in the EU has created a great barrier to entry, but we don’t need to use Google. But we keep coming back to it.

TONY WRIGHT – He was in PR with Microsoft, and fought antitrust action against the company in the 90s, and Microsoft was taken down by 2 guys in a garage, not the government. This is the cycle, but no one knows what’s going to replace Google.

ERIC ENGE – There needs to be something dramatically different, but we don’t know what it is. Google will run out of runway eventually.

MIKE GREHAN – In ‘06 Google stopped calling themselves a search engine; they are a digital marketing company now. Google has made so many changes, but they’re not for us, they’re for the user. Hummingbird is not meant for people with a keyboard, because we are talking into mobile phones.

BRUCE CLAY – Asks how many people owe their jobs to Google’s changing all the time? Most raise their hands. Of course.

Next Question: How is mobile changing the game for marketers?

ERIC ENGE – It changes the website fundamentally, based on mobile users and devices. Organizations without mobile are already behind and will feel the financial pinch next year.

TONY WRIGHT – Makes a prediction that there’ll be 2x the mobile analytics tools at the conference next year.

JENNY HALASZ – We need to consider where the customer is and the context of how they are using devices.

JOE LARATRO – Very few are starting to scratch the surface in mobile behavior. Important issues need to be addressed as a result of this new behavior. The greatest opportunity for mobile is building direct connections with users.

MIKE GREHAN – Google does parlor tricks, they don’t actually answer real questions. Example – is it moral for girls to take the pill? See what answers you get. Google is just a database.

ERIC ENGE – Build your own audience, no matter the platform – this is how businesses succeed.

TONY WRIGHT – Web presence should be the center of your universe. You will avoid a lot of problems if you execute on this concept.

BRUCE CLAY – What if Google decides that organic is no longer needed on mobile phones? That would change our lives dramatically, and there’s nothing to prevent that from happening.

MIKE GREHAN – Does Google have all the power? What about Baidu, and Yandex? He’s a new grandfather again for the fifth time (congratulations), and never sees his grandkids open a mobile browser. It’s all apps.

Up next from Brett Tabke: What would be the top recommendations for earning money in the coming year?

BRUCE CLAY – Get better at PPC. He believes that people will get squeezed out of organic, because Google is not in the business of giving away free traffic. The problem is competition, and we are going to have to spend more money to make more money. Because Google doesn’t make money on organic, the real estate on SERPs will be shrinking.

MIKE GREHAN – Everyone is a publisher, and creating your audience. Build your own audience.

GARETH HOYLE – Paid social. Not all people hang out on Google. Use the context of different social platforms to increase presence. If you can make a website, you can make money.

TONEY WRIGHT – There are big opportunities to create better websites. And websites that work on mobile. People need sites that just work.

ERIC ENGE – Yes, create an audience, but how do you do that? We should all strive to solve problems without asking for a penny.

JENNY HALASZ – Diversify. Build content, audience build, brand build. Mobile marketing. Do not be solely dependent on Google for your audience.

BRUCE CLAY – For brick and mortars, be afraid of Amazon. They are opening up a brick and mortar on 34th Street in NYC. Do not underestimate the ability of large online companies to jump into real life.

Audience Questions

Do you think there will be any profit in semantic optimization for the Knowledge Graph?

JENNY HALASZ – Google has developed a knowledge base on how to properly implement schema. Google recognizes the need to make it easier.

MIKE GREHAN – If Google understands the intent of a query, then structured data is not necessary.

ERIC ENGE – Google is getting good at understanding how likely a user is to be satisfied based on UX, which is somewhat outside the realm of schema. This validates the research by Searchmetics on co-occurrence.

MIKE GREHAN – Co-occurrence has been around for forever, but as the lexicon changes, how does Google adapt? One third of queries everyday Google has never seen before. Keywords used to be strong, but Google thrives on end user data. How media is consumed is the most important thing, which is why content is so important.

Q: Where will marketing strategy be on wearables next year?

TONY LARATRO – Don’t be a glass hole.

TONY WRIGHT – Looks forward to the day he can optimize his fridge.

ERIC ENGE – Consider all searches as voice search, because no one types things on their watch.

JENNY HALASZ – Voice and video

Q: Can Siri compete with Google? Will Facebook create a search engine?

ERIC ENGE –  He published a study using 3000 keywords running on Google, Cortana, and Sir – Google answered 58% of questions, Siri 29%, Cortana 21%. But were the questions fully answered? Google: 83%,  Siri: 40%,  Cortana: 20%

TONY WRIGHT – Facebook will have a Knowledge Graph type function.

MIKE GREHAN – You are tapping into a network of trust, so a Facebook search engine will be powerful.

Q: Why does SEO matter more than just to SEOs? How does a company that doesn’t want to invest in SEO do so?

TONY LARATRO – There are a lot of roadblocks, and sometimes SEO is not the best way, like with competing with Google products. No breaking that ceiling. You have to find opportunities to get through to the organization.

JENNY HALASZ – SEO is about marketing. Companies should continue to invest in it because understanding customers never changes.

TONY WRIGHT – SEO is not an island. If it is, you will fail. You must be able to integrate. Requires more than just on-page optimization. It’s about web presence, which must include an all of the above strategy.

ERIC ENGE – If there are big competitors in front of you on the SERPs, you’re not going to win that battle. You must find the battles you can win in the space.

GARETH HOYLE – Buy ads. Maybe SEO is not the right avenue depending on the topic/keyword. SEO is the glue that brings everything together. Everyone needs to speak to everyone. Google what you want to rank for and assess where you need to place your SEO efforts.

That’s it, nothing but applause for the SEO Mosh Pit. Entertaining as always, and happy 15th birthday Pubcon!

October 10th 2014 SEO

Why focus on long tail keywords?

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While writing our book ‘Optimizing your WordPress website’ I worked closely together with Joost in creating a section on Search Engine Optimization. The first chapter — after the introduction in SEO — had to be keyword research. ‘Keyword research is the basis of all Search Engine Optimization,’ Joost explained to me, ‘without proper keyword research, all other things are basically useless’.

Back in 2010 Joost already wrote a post called the basis of keyword research in which he states that ‘keyword research is the basis of all search marketing’. At the very least my husband is consistent! And more importantly, I think he is absolutely right [Note from Joost: yeeehaw!].

At, however, we did very little to provide guidance to our readers in doing keyword research. That’s a bit weird, it being the most important part of SEO and all… That’s why I would like to dwell on this subject for a number of posts, helping you understand the importance of keyword research and sharing some of our secrets in how to execute a proper keyword research.

In this post, I would like to help you understand the importance of understanding your own product and the effort you should make to rank for long tail keywords.

What is your mission?

If you want to sell something, you should simply have a damn good product! And you should be well aware of what your product or your website offers to your audience… what makes it special. If you know and understand this, it will be much easier to make your audience like and buy your stuff. You should thus take some time to think about the uniqueness of your product and write that down. Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great facilities for children, making the cruises especially suitable for young parents or single moms. Offering great cruises to Hawaii for single moms could be the uniqueness of your service.This is your mission, your niche, this is what you have to offer to your audience! Do  make sure you write down your mission in words that are used and understood by your audience.

Competitiveness of the market

In some markets, it is really hard to rank. Some markets are just highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have a very large budget to spend on marketing in general and SEO specifically. Ranking in these markets is hard. You will be unable to compete on a small budget in a market like the travel industry using search terms as Vacation Hawaii.

However, if you have your mission clear, you should be able to define what makes your product or website stand out from this market.  And you should use YOUR mission in order to start ranking! Taking my example of cruises for single moms to Hawaii, would mean that you should focus on the less competitive term [single mom cruises Hawaii]. Again, use words that are used by your target audience (and avoid difficult terminologies).

Long tail keywords graphic

Long tail: the more specific your keyword, the less your competition

Long tail keywords

The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it will be to rank on the term. Keywords that are more specific (and often longer) are usually referred to as long tail search terms. Long tail keywords are more specific and less common. They focus more on a niche.

It is much easier to rank for long tail keywords than for more common keywords. Another benefit for focussing on long tail keywords is that, although these keywords are used less in search, the visitor that finds your website using them is more likely to buy your service or product.

The longer and more specific the search terms are, the higher the chances of conversion are. I am currently looking for a cottage in France to spend our next summer vacation. I started my search with the term ‘vacation France’. I quickly discovered I wanted to go to the Dordogne, and preferred a house in the countryside. My search still continues, but now I use terms like [vacation house countryside Dordogne]. A long tail keyword. Using this keyword, I found new sites, which more closely resembled my vacation wishes. Chances for me to book my vacation largely increased.

Use your mission to define long tail keywords

The definition of your mission, in which you make crystal clear what the awesomeness of your product, site or blog is, should be central in choosing the long tail keywords you want to rank for. Trying to make your website rank for a specific term can be quite profitable, as long as this specific term closely resembles the product you’re selling. The terms you have used to describe your mission can be nicely used to focus on in your SEO strategy. These words should be central in the long tail keywords you aim your website to rank for. People using the terms of your mission and finding your website will be relatively small in volume, but these people do have the highest chances to buy your product or to become regular visitors.


This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

October 10th 2014 SEO

Pubcon Liveblog: Link Building through Press Outreach

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Pubcon Liveblog: Link Building through Press Outreach was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Rob Woods, SEO consultant, will share insights on press outreach that leads to strong links in this Pubcon Las Vegas 2014 session.

Rob Woods at Pubcon Las Vegas 2014

Rob Woods at Pubcon Las Vegas 2014

Why do Press Outreach?

  • One of the few authoritative links left that are guaranteed to stay safe for the foreseeable future
  • Press links have good link equity
  • One link can lead to many links
  • Don’t just focus on link equity – traffic is good, too, as are citations
  • Press links are important for small, local sites as well as big, national sites

Caveat: Going after press links are hard work, take time and money, and you are going to face rejection from reporters.

Getting Ready

Have something to say. A lot of people think they can reach out to the press without having something to say. Whatever you’re pitching must be newsworthy. You have to be helpful, know your stuff, and build a decent press page.

Press Page Must-Haves

  • Basic explanation of who you are
  • Proof of why you are an expert
  • Social proof if you have it (we have 100,000 Twitter followers, etc.)
  • Include the assets a writer would need (logos, infographics, images)
  • Contact info

What to Talk About

  • Leverage current events
  • Leverage seasonal events
  • Site or app launch
  • Major events

Finding the Right Journalists

Search for your major keywords and comb through the SERP results (10 pages deep even) and find articles on your subject. You can also comb through Google News results.

Find out as much as you can about the journalist. Journalists and bloggers get a ton of inquiries – differentiate yourself by knowing how to get their attention by getting to know what they write about, what they’re interested in.

Look at their Twitter, their LinkedIn, their bio pages, etc. Maybe you’ll find a commonality that you can mention in your initial correspondence (for example, perhaps you went to same college or root for the same sports team).

Associated Press and Reuters should be your top targets. If you’re reaching out to them, make sure to write custom, carefully crafted emails.


  • Be useful.
  • Be timely.
  • Be available. Reporters work weird hours. Be there for them when they want you.
  • Don’t be afraid to give away the farm. Give them lots of information up front.
  • Respond quickly.


  • Muckrack: a good place to find journalists on Twitter, searching by “beat” or niche. Through Muckrack you can save lists and create alerts
  • Followerwonk: search Twitter bios by keyword
  • Use Vocus or Cision to find journalists and their contact info

Acing Your Interview

  • Be prepared for written, phone, Skype or live interviews
  • Make and use notes
  • Know your stuff
  • Be professional
  • Be flexible with your time. If they want 8 p.m. … be there at 8 p.m.
  • Get media training of public speaking experience
  • Practice
  • Bend over backwards
  • Have unique data or insight they can’t get anywhere else
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the link


October 9th 2014 SEO

Does Homepage SEO exist at all?

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Does Homepage SEO exist at all?It’s clear that a homepage serves a number of different purposes. Among others, it is your welcoming page and your main user guide for your website. I promise to devote another post to that.

There is however one purpose that I feel a homepage does not have, and that is ranking for keywords other than your business name or brand. We have had a number of email questions about that, so it is something certain webmasters or website owners think about. The question is: should they?

Homepage SEO

The process of optimizing your homepage for Google, or any other search engines, could be called homepage SEO. Let me make a bold statement right after naming it: I don’t think that homepage SEO exists (as such). That might not be what a webmaster wants to hear, especially if he has been trying to rank his homepage for years.

If your website is set up right and you have a nice number of backlinks, your homepage will probably rank for your business name or brand anyway. However, there is an exception to that rule. These days, a lot of websites have keyword based names like ‘Christmas Cookies’, ‘Grow Trees’ or ‘Cute Socks’. If your ‘brand’ name is a keyword people could use in Google, it becomes somewhat different. There will be more websites targeting these keywords, so all of a sudden you are facing competition for your site name. This post about homepage SEO is actually triggered by a support question from a review customer that could not get his site to rank for such a site name. He did try to optimize his homepage’s SEO for that.

Briefly, I emailed him my thoughts on homepage SEO and explained the concept of cornerstone content (see aside).

As you probably won’t try to rank your contact page, neither should you try to rank your homepage. That also means you don’t need to bother setting a focus keyword for these pages, let alone spend hours trying to get that green bullet.

However, there is a huge side note to be made. At Yoast, we believe that SEO in general will only work when other things like speed, user experience and social media are taken into account as well. And you could optimize your homepage for that.

Optimizing your homepage, SEO style

Although you don’t have to optimize your homepage for a keyword, there is still work to be done. We have mentioned a few in this article, but there are more. These are the things you can do to optimize your homepage for SEO related things:

  • Make sure the page title focuses on your brand name or main product;
  • add a clear, recognizable logo in the upper left corner for branding;
  • there should be a clear call-to-action that draws attention;
  • don’t forget to structure your menu(!);
  • provide OpenGraph and Twitter Cards for better social sharing;
  • make sure the meta description is filled out, that it explains your USP and invites the visitor to your website;
  • product images are inviting, but the page needs textual information or a great tagline as well;
  • don’t clutter your homepage with a million links. Keep it focused and don’t flood your footer or menu with these links;
  • contact details should be available for most websites, including social buttons and perhaps a newsletter subscription;
  • if applicable, add a search bar (prominent or as an extra).

This is a small checklist every website owner could use to analyse his own homepage. Have you thought of all of these?

Your opinion about Homepage SEO is valued

I am very open to discussion about this. There must be SEO consultants or web masters that feel that homepage SEO is very much needed for any SEO campaign. I am looking forward to seeing examples of that, by the way.

Last year, there was a small hype about one-page websites (nobody seems to be talking about these anymore). That’s probably the hardest homepage to rank, or at least it seems to be. Just another thought.

Let me know what you think of this. I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments: Does Homepage SEO exist at all?

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

October 9th 2014 SEO

Pubcon Liveblog: Search Algorithm Chaos & Keyword (Not Provided)

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Pubcon Liveblog: Search Algorithm Chaos & Keyword (Not Provided) was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

In this Pubcon Las Vegas session, Bruce Clay (president of Bruce Clay, Inc.), Prashant Puri (co-founder of AdLift) and Jake Bohall (vice president of marketing at Virante) are going to talk about an always-hot topic in SEO: Keyword data (Not Provided). Clay explains why he thinks (Not Provided) is not that big of a deal. Puri shares fresh ideas for gathering up more keyword data, regardless of keyword data provision by Google. And Bohall talks about chaos theory and how it applies to SEO.


Jake Bohall, Prashant Puri and Bruce Clay at Pubcon session Taming Algo Chaos and (Not Provided)

Bruce Clay: “Provided” Is a Fallacy and So Is (Not Provided)

Clay tells us that the very idea of (Not Provided) is a fallacy; definitive, black-and-white keyword data was never available to us – why? Because for the past six years, Google has been modifying our SERP results based on data and search history. Note the following link that began showing up in 2008:

not provided in google

We know that web history and location have been a long-time disruption. When you consider these disruptions, you realize that analytics data can be somewhat misleading.

Consider this: if you search for “drug rehab” you get research papers, but if you search for drug rehab in Hollywood, you get local rehab centers. Google assumes that people searching “drug rehab” in Hollywood are looking for a center, rather than researching, and that’s based on Google’s understanding of these searchers’ IP addresses.

The moral of the story is that all along, our SERP results have been modified based on Google’s interpretation of their search history and location.

Dealing with Web History

Google Instant shows what is actually being queried. Use it to find out what related terms people are searching for. SEOs need to care about those related queries, as well. Google Instant shows us those.

not provided and keywords

Google Instant

Google Instant is 100% query based. We can look at it to see the frequency of a query. It is manipulatable. As we go through web history, we can see the words — in descending sequence by continuation — that people search often. If they make sense for our page, we need to integrate these queries onto our pages.

Dealing with Locations

As you search in different cities, you get all sorts of different results. One of the things you might want to do is set your location in different metros and see how it effects the SERP. Moreover, you have to account for the fact that the meaning of a word in one city might take on a different meaning in another city. Every geolocation effects the SERP.

This is a major factor in the mobile landscape. Mobile will disrupt everything. It’s already disrupting everything. Mobile results are based on intent. Is the intent shopping? Researching? Google determines this on the fly.

Traffic, Not Keywords

We’re not selling keywords; we’re selling traffic. Attribution matters. Specifically, high traffic and low bounce rate is what we’re after.

As to pinpointing keywords that are driving our traffic, we can come very close, but there’s no way to identify a single keyword. We can identify, for example, a group of four keywords, but that’s as close as we can come.

One landing page can rank for multiple keywords. It’s difficult to say I got this traffic because of this keyword. The correlation is hard to prove.

And remember:

  • 20% of searches each day are new or haven’t been conducted in 6 months.
  • 70% of queries have no exact match keywords.
  • 5% of users queries are greater than 3 words.

There is a significant difference between data and wisdom; we can look at the data and realize provided didn’t mean as much as we thought. “Provided” was a fallacy.

Prashant Puri: Sources of Keyword Data

Google said (Not Provided) was only going to affect 10% of data, but according to Puri it, in fact, affects 90%. How do you get more data? Puri suggests downloading search query data on monthly basis. The data is rolling, so you have to keep up with it.

Maximize Your Search Query Data

The way to maximize your search query data is to dive deep into the categories on your site.

Use the folder level URLs as separate websites — this lets you get a lot more data.

Pury shares that with one client, there were 6,572 pieces of search data available. After listing folder level URLs as separate websites and de-duping, that number rose to 16,514.

You will get 80% more search query data, and the process takes less than ten minutes.

Understanding the Attribution Model

“The only use for last click attribution now is to get you fired. Avoid it. ” —Avinash Kaushik

Attribution segments show that 35% of conversions have more than one touch point. The majority of your conversions could happen at the first click, but there are a lot that have multiple click attribution.

You need to figure out which attribution model works for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all model.


  • Set up Google Webmaster Tools and extract historical data
  • Set up folder level/category structure on Google Webmaster Tools
  • Understand page level metrics for your top landing pages
  • Analyze the data for three segments: Not Provided, Brand and Non-Brand
  • Leverage an attribution model that works for your website

Jake Bohall on Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory: the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.

The internet is chaos — and Google is attempting to make sense of that chaos.

Google is trying to organize chaos through its algorithm.

And yet Eric Schmidt testified before Congress that there were more than 500 unnamed changes, and yet there were only 8 named changes. It’s a growing war between Google and spammers.

Are SEOs the bad guys or the good guys? Bohall points out that most SEOs, by the very nature of their optimization efforts, are violating Google’s guidelines. Every time we work for links, he asks, are we not attempting to manipulate links? That is against Google’s terms of service. So, we need to be smarter than the algorithm and evolve. You have to evolve with the times. Meaning better content and better links. Better content means greater relevance and better links means greater authorities.

We should not fall prey to fear, uncertainty and doubt. We must move forward and make great content.

Quality Content Matters

  • Unique. Implement rich snippets, micro data and UGC.
  • Relevant. Topical relevancy
  • Authority. Share and create authority socially.

Bohall talks about the idea of broken link building — finding pages that existed in the past that was linked to significantly, but no longer exist. Create something new based on this abandoned content, and then ask people to update their links to your content.

October 8th 2014 SEO

Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Copywriting Style Guide — Tools & Tricks for SEO Writers

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Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Copywriting Style Guide — Tools & Tricks for SEO Writers was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Mindy Weinstein, SEO Manager of Bruce Clay, Inc., and Lindsay Mineo, senior search strategist at ThunderActive, share tips and tools for SEO copywriting. Their lessons help writers craft content for people that’s also rich for search engines.

Lindsay Mineo and Mindy Weinstein answer questions at Pubcon Las Vegas

Lindsay Mineo and Mindy Weinstein answer questions at Pubcon Las Vegas

Mindy Weinstein: 4 Tips that Address the Human Element of Content Marketing

Whether you’re writing an article, a blog post, your home page … where do you start? You need to start with the human element.

Copywriting Tip #1: Listen to Your Audience

You have to know what your audience wants to hear from you. You need to understand them.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” —Ralph Nichols

How do you listen to your audience?

  • Learn everything you can about your target audience
  • Plan to write about topics and answer questions your audience cares about
  • Content must show that you understand what your prospects or customers want and or need to hear
  • Be empathetic

Close your eyes and imagine the people you’re talking to – your competitors aren’t doing that. You need to build trust and empathize above all else.

This goes beyond saying “Welcome to Our Website” – there are more than 18 million sites boasting this, and it does nothing for the visitor.

Don’t start writing until you’ve answered these questions:

  • What does your audience want or need?
  • What do they expect?
  • How can your website help them?

Your first sentence is huge – that’s when you’re going to capture someone and get them to keep reading. And in that sentence, it needs to address why they’re there and what they need.

Listen to your audience by:

  • Using Social Media. This is the closest you’ll get to reading people’s minds.
  • Conducting Surveys. Obtain comments and feedback. Get insights into what they care about. Get to know them.
  • Customer Service. Hear from the front lines.
  • Focus Groups. Discover perceptions.
  • Reach out to your existing customers.
Mindy Weinstein

Bruce Clay, Inc. SEO Manager Mindy Weinstein shares her four top tips for copywriting at Pubcon Las Vegas 2014.

Copywriting Tip #2: Research Your Keywords

Target the right keywords. Know the demographic behind the keywords. Don’t neglect the associated keywords (synonyms).

Weinstein’s keyword research tools:

  • Brainstorming
  • Bing Ads Intelligence
  • Keyword Tool I/O
  • Soovle
  • KSP Tool
  • Google AdWords Keyword Planner
  • Google Trends
  • Google Instant

Copywriting Tip #3: Create Your BluePrint

Each keyword is different. You need to understand the intent. You also need to know what the search engines are rewarding. Review the top ranked pages. Determine the normal behavior of your competitors.

Weinstein’s recommended analysis tools:

  • SEOToolSet Single Page Analyzer
  • Internet Marketing Ninjas On-Page Optimization Tool
  • WooRank Website Review
  • Microsoft Word and Excel (get organized)
  • Google advanced Search (allows you to look at reading level. This functionality was added when Panda came out – that signals that reading level matters to Google. You need to make sure your content’s reading level is appropriate by looking at the reading level of the already ranking pages)

Copywriting Tip #4: Develop Magnetic Content

Stay focused on your audience and incorporate the “You” attitude – that means that when you’re communicating, keep your audience (the “you”) at the forefront of your mind. Don’t focus on yourself – be ready to answer questions, such as:

  • Why should they listen?
  • Why should they care?
  • Why was this message even created in the first place?

Use the appropriate tone and messaging. Engage and connect. Create an editorial calendar – otherwise you’re going about things blindly.

Discover your headline’s emotional marketing value with one of Weinstein’s favorite tools: Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. Studies show that headlines with a higher EMV have more social shares.

Lindsay Mineo: Tools and Tricks for SEO Writers

Lindsay Mineo at Pubcon

Lindsay Mineo at Pubcon Las Vegas 2014

Whether you’re writing for a brand or an agency you’re likely going to be reporting to someone who doesn’t understand SEO.

Persona Building

Relate to your audience as human beings – they’re the ones who are visiting your website and converting, not robots.

Keyword Research

Find the topics you should be addressing with the AdWords Keyword Planner. It’s free, and helps you find new keywords. Get traffic estimates for keywords and search volume, as well.

Finding the Right Voice

Connect with your audience as people. Ask you client or brand what voice they prefer to use. They might want to be humorous. They might want to be uber professional. Find out at the start so you know what tone to wield.

  • If you’re writing for a legal or medical site, still try to have personality in the writing – avoid sounding like an encyclopedia.
  • If you are able to write in humorous tone, make sure not to be insensitive. Brands who use the wrong hashtag or photo or words can come under fire.

Scope Out the Competition

  • Find out what you can do better. Try using Facebook Graph Search for competitor analysis.
  • All of your content should have some visual aspect to it.
  • Make sure to use white space.
  • Fully understand the language you’re speaking in. Are you writing regional content? Make sure your terms and/or slang is appropriate for the region. This really is important if you are outsourcing your content.
  • Write for the people, not the robots.
  • Use Title tags and Meta Descriptions; use your keywords but don’t stuff them.

Measuring Your Results

Mineo’s list of recommended tools:

  • Quora
  • Content Idea Generator
  • Google+ Communities
  • com
  • Your competitors’ social media accounts
  • Majestic SEO
  • Buffer’s Big List of 1879 Words that Convert
  • Title Tag Planner
  • Open Site Explorer
  • Content Idea Generator
  • Mail Chimp or Survey Monkey
  • Optimizely
October 8th 2014 SEO

Fast Five in Search – Week 41, 2014

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I had a student ask me about video optimization this week. By video optimization, I mean SEO for videos uploaded to her company YouTube account. Naturally, she wanted her company videos to appear at the top of the search results when anyone conducted a search on YouTube for her business brand.

I referred her to a couple of my favorite video SEO resources and thought that perhaps you readers may find them useful too.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) How to Optimize Video: Step by Step Instructions by Jennifer Osborne of Aim Clear. Although this post is a little dated, most of the content is still relevant and it contains some tips you won’t see anywhere else.

2) Moz Whiteboard Friday: SEO for Video Content by Scott Willoughby of Moz. Well, Scott is just the post author, but the content is actually provided in video format by Rand Fishkin in one of his ever-helpful Whiteboard Friday videos.

3) Video SEO: A Technical Guide by Joost de Valk of Yoast. An incredibly clever guy, Joost is the creator of several uber-successful WordPress plugins and knows an enormous amount about SEO. This was the first post I found that waded into the technical concept of meta markup for video content.

4) Distilled Guide to Online Video Marketing by Cheri Percy of Distilled. These guys don’t do things by halves. Big fans of downloadable white-papers and reports, the Distilled crew have created this Guide as a PDF doc for download. It’s pitched as “a practical and expansive guide covering all aspects of online video marketing and it totally delivers on that promise.

and finally…

5) Markup for Videos by Some Poor Guy Who Didn’t Deserve a Name But Apparently Deserved Sub-Titles of Google. This video posted on Google Webmaster Tools Help explains how using on-page markup to describe your videos will allow Google, Bing, and Yahoo! to index and show your videos in search results.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.


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October 6th 2014 SEO