Over the last few months we’ve been working hard on improving how we build and test our plugins. We’re writing more and more unit tests and are trying to prevent issues from popping up. There’s one recurring issue though: we can’t test everything. Hosting environments vary so much that we have decided to do more public betas for our plugins. As a direct result of that decision, this post announces two public betas as well as reminds you of our beta mailing list.
For both plugins we’re aiming for a beta period of about a week but if too many bugs come out of a beta we’ll of course postpone release.
WordPress SEO by Yoast 1.8-beta
We’ve refactored large parts of the frontend code of our WordPress SEO plugin and heavily optimized how the plugin loads its modules in both front- and backend. The execution of code of our plugins code on the frontend is now approximately 30 – 40% faster, which of course is awesome. But… This almost has to lead to bugs and while we’ve fixed a fair few and our unit tests all succeed, we’d like you to test.
Most important here is testing whether there are any major differences in meta data between your pages with the current WordPress SEO plugin and this beta. This beta introduces a few new features around Twitter cards (Twitter cards on every page, support for the Twitter Gallery card) but all the other meta data should be the same.
Another thing that should work better in this release is everything to do with characters with accents, umlauts etc in the focus keyword and all the tests around that.
Note: this is beta software. Do not use on production environments.
Google Analytics by Yoast 5.3-beta
The release of the dashboards for our Google Analytics plugin has been a bit of a bumpy ride. We’ve made some mistakes and have had to scramble to fix those. Brian Krogsgard actually wrote a nice post over on Post Status about it, if you’re interested in the background. We think this beta release fixes some of the last remaining issues but we’re having a hard time confirming those, so we decided to ask a wider audience to test.
This beta has the option to completely disable the dashboards functionality, should you want to. It should also no longer show any notices about re-authentication or at least show them way less frequently than it did for some people.
Note: this is beta software. Do not use on production environments.
How to give feedback
So you want to test and give feedback? Awesome, thank you! We’d prefer your feedback in the form of new issues on GitHub (make sure to mention the beta) or as emails to beta at yoast.com.
The beta mailing list
We have a mailing list for beta testers that we’ll be using more often, you can sign up for that here. We’ll send new versions of the betas out to that mailing list too so make sure to subscribe if you’re testing.
I previously wrote posts about the structure and about the style of your post. In this post, we will focus on the purpose of your text. A lot of people forget to properly formulate the purpose of their blog post or article. This is unfortunate, because if you do not properly define the aim of your text, it will be impossible to check whether or not you have succeeded. You do not write just for the sake of writing but because you have an idea of what you want your audience to know or do (or to stop doing).
Three main text objectives
I distinguish three main text objectives. First, your objective could be merely to inform people. A second objective could be to persuade people. You want people to buy your products or to return to your website. The final objective of your text could be entertaining or amusing. You could write a text in order to entertain your audience, for instance by making them laugh or by moving them. These three text objectives are not at all mutually exclusive. A piece could be informative and amusing at the same time!
Long term business aims and text objectives
Apart from the objective of your text, your company or your website will have long term business objectives. You should think about those long term business aims while determining the objectives of the text on your website.
For instance, at Yoast.com, we write blogposts largely to inform people about SEO. So the objective is to inform people. However, we also want people to become return visitors and to gain trust in our brand. Eventually, the long term purpose of our informing blogs is to gain enough trust for people to buy one of our products.
Be aware that if the objective of your post is to generate links from others, you should think about the character of your post as well. If you want your post to attract links from other sites in order to improve your rankings in Google you should focus on writing informative or amusing posts. Persuasive posts, in which the sales arguments are salient, will not receive as many links as purely informative posts will. People are more likely to share an informative or an amusing post than a purely persuasive post, because these posts are more free of ulterior motives.
Tips to use when focussing on one of the three main text objectives
In the following paragraphs we will give some tips you can use when writing either an informative, a persuasive or an amusing post or article.
In an informative text you explain something to your audience. You want them to understand more about a topic or you want them to use your information (put theory to practice). That’s it. You should take some time to clearly formulate the issue you want to address in your post. And an informative text will usually need quite some investigating in order to decide on the exact content of a piece.
The style of an informative text should be clear and professional. You should focus on the message itself. Focussing on content will give your text a professional and reliable character. Your style should not be too amicable. It could even be a bit distant.
The structure of an informative text should be clear. A logical structure could be to address a different topic in each paragraph. In the conclusion you could summarize the information of your entire text.
A persuasive text is a text a reader doesn’t necessarily want to read. The purpose of your text is to persuade your audience to do something (such as buying your product) it wasn’t necessarily planning to do. For that very reason, you will understand that writing persuasive texts is very hard.
The style of a persuasive text should be very bold. Your sentences and paragraphs should be short. You can either focus on convincing your audience with emotions or with logic.
If you choose to persuade with emotions, try to use a lot of positive words (like fun, easy, quality). Make your post personal and write from the perspective of the reader. You could for instance address the reader directly using words as ‘you’ and ‘your’. Anecdotes or stories illustrating the awesomeness of your product are very nice to use if you are trying to convince people by using emotions.
If you want to persuade using logic, you should take some time to write down all of your logical arguments. Make sure you deduce your arguments correctly and make use of examples to illustrate your arguments. Focussing on persuasion using logic calls for a relatively distant and formal style. Of course, you can also choose a strategy in which you combine persuading with emotions and logic.
The structure of a persuasive text should reflect your arguments. Make sure to use separate paragraphs for your arguments (regardless whether you have emotional or logical arguments). Use lots of headings and make sure you use the most important arguments in the titles of your headings.
An amusing text’s main objective is to entertain people. Usually these texts tend to be funny. Amusing texts could also be moving or touching. A column is a very nice example of an amusing text.
Writing solely amusing texts will not be an activity many of you will undertake. Most texts will have both an amusing as well as an informative or a persuasive objective. Blogs on a mom blog often tend to be amusing (at least for women), but usually serve an informative or persuasive objective as well.
Writing in an amusing style is definitely very hard. Some people just have much more talent to be funny, to come up with funny anecdotes or with nice word plays. Perhaps you should not instantly aim for an amusing text, but try to master the informative and persuasive texts first. Using exaggerations and metaphors could be a first attempt to make your text (more) amusing. Amusing texts usually ask for an informal style. These texts are often very personal, containing the words ‘I’ and ‘my’.
Thinking about the objective of your post is something you definitely should take some time for. Take into account the long term aims of your business or your website as well. And make sure the objective of your post and the aims of your business are similar. Finally, use our tips to make sure the style and structure of your post fits your text objective.
In 2014 Yoast once again grew exponentially. I thought it’d be fun to highlight some of the things that happened and show what we’ve been working on that might have been somewhat hidden.
Our WordPress SEO plugin is now used by approximately 4 million users worldwide, with our GoogleAnalytics plugin following with a still respectable 1.25 million users. This means especially our SEO plugin has doubled its usage in a year, something we’re incredibly proud of and thankful for.
In February of this year, we released version 1 of our WordPress SEO Premium plugin, one of our “flagship” products. In the beginning of December, we added a Premium offering to our Google Analytics plugin, offering the tracking of and dashboards for Custom Dimensions and a few other things. Both of these releases have been very successful and received very good feedback.
During the year, we on-boarded a complete team of engineers, now headed by Omar, our development manager. Under his lead, we did a lot of work to make our code more future proof and maintainable, using a lot of unit tests, Code Climate, continuous integration tests through Travis etc. We’ve also got a Grunt setup in all our major plugins now that should be easy for many other plugin developers to copy. This trend will certainly continue in the new year.
The growth of our customer and user base also meant we had to handle more questions. To that end we’ve grown our support team to now be 6 people, 2 in our office in Wijchen and 4 around the world (to be precise: Rumejan in the Phillipines, Nile and Angelia in the US and Ramon in Spain) so we can offer support in all timezones.
Along with all the changes to code, Taco and myself put a lot of time and effort in getting more and better translations for our plugins. Our translate site is now being used by more and more people and we’re shipping more and more different translations for our plugins, a trend we will definitely want to continue over the next year. So if you’ve got some time during the holidays to translate one of our plugins, do sign up!
While our plugins are probably the reason most people know us, an ever growing group of customers is using our site review service. This service, in which our team reviews your site and gives you lots of actionable feedback, has seen several overhauls this year, including new names, new offerings and more, leading to our current Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond site reviews that make me proud.
My goal has always been to make our knowledge available to as many people as we can. This inevitably leads to problems with scale. Our site reviews make it possible for our customers to get a lot of solid feedback on their site for less than 10% of what the agencies I once worked for myself would charge for similar reports. We’ve done 400+ reviews in 2014 and I expect we’ll do 600+ in 2015. We have an interesting Holiday sale going on with them right now if you want to get your site reviewed early in 2015.
We released our first two eBooks this year, books we honestly hadn’t even planned on at the beginning of the year, to tremendous success. We’ve sold over 6,000 copies now and had some very good feedback. Our next eBook, written by Marieke and myself entirely, focuses entirely on Content SEO. It’s in the final production stages now and will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2015. If you want to be among the first to hear when it’s released, subscribe to our newsletter!
Outside of the posts I’ve already linked to in the sections above, we’ve had some other posts that received a lot of positive feedback that I’d like to highlight:
Last but not least, our team has grown, a lot. As said we added 4 people in support internationally and we now have 15 people in our office in Wijchen and are currently looking for 3 more, so if you want to start the new year with new job, live close by and fit the profile, do apply!
Conclusion: 2014 was great!
I can honestly say 2014 exceeded all my expectations. We’re far from done here at Yoast so we’ll be doing lots of cool things in 2015, but first, we’re going to take a short break and relax.
I wish you all very happy holidays and hope to “see” you in 2015!
The holidays are just around the corner! At Yoast, we truly do love Christmas and New Year’s eve. The main reason we love it so much, is because it gives people the motivation to start so many new and inspiring things each year. What are your new year’s resolutions? Do you have some big plans for the new year?
We’d love to give you a little nudge in achieving your goals! That’s why we have an awesome all-round sale, which starts now and lasts until January 2nd! Curious what we’ve got for you? Here it is!
The New Year’s Resolution discount
Get a whopping 20% discount on both our Silver SEO Review and our Gold SEO Review. No need for special links or coupons, this discount is for everyone!
Note: We’ll start these reviews after the holidays, so they won’t be completed in the regular 2-week time frame.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about obtaining an attractive writing style. I gave some practical tips to make your blogs more readable. In this post, I will give practical tips to help you set up a nice and clear blog structure. Before the end of this year, I will write a final post about text objectives.
Why is blog post structure important?
It really pays off to think about the structure of your piece before you actually start writing. The structure is the skeleton of your text: it will help the reader grasp the main idea of your text.
Writing awesome articles will not instantly improve your ranking. But: in the long run it will definitely have a positive effect on your SEO! Well structured texts have lower bounce rates and higher chances to receive social media attention.
Post with clear blog post structure will also result in higher conversions on your website. If your message is properly understood by your audience, chances are much larger for them to buy your products or return to your website.
How to set up your structure
Think before you start writing. Take a piece of paper and write down what you want to write about. Set up a blog post structure, before you start writing and hold on to that structure while writing your blog post. Setting up a structure of your text can (for instance) be done following these three steps:
Step 1: Create a list
If you have gathered all the information you want to use in your post or article, you can start with structuring. You can write down a list with all the topics. You should just make some kind of list of everything your text should cover.
Step 2: Bundling topics together
If you have a clear overview of all the topics you want to discuss in your article, you start bundling topics. Topics which are similar should of course be discussed together.
Step 3: Ordering topics
If you are done bundling, you should decide upon the order you want to present the topics in your article. In most cases you will decide to order thematically. For instance, if you want to discuss various aspects or angles of the main topic of your blog. You should then discuss every aspect in a new paragraph.
Next to ordening according to theme, you could also order chronological or discuss your topics in a didactic order. Especially when you try to explain complicated material, a didactic order, in which you explain easy stuff first and difficult aspects later could be a very good idea.
Table 1: Types of ordening
Type of ordening
ordened on theme, aspect, topic
easy – hard
introduce problem first and then possible solutions
After you have ordered the topics you want to address in your article, you should make a new list. This list is actually kind of a summary of the article you are about to write. You could write a short sentence or a few words for every paragraph you plan to write. This list serves as the skeleton of your article and you should keep it well in mind during the remainder of the writing process.
Creation of paragraphs
In the blog post structure you have set up, you have bundled topics together. You can then start to write paragraphs. But what makes a good paragraph? A paragraph can be defined by three things. Remember these things while writing!
A paragraph should form a thematic unit.
A paragraph contains one core sentence and an elaboration of this core sentence.
A paragraph should be made visible (by using whitespace).
Lots of people make mistakes while creating paragraphs. Writers just put some white spaces in their text on random places for esthetic purposes, but do not really think about the coherence and structure of the text. I also see a lot of paragraphs containing only one sentence. In many cases, the coherence within paragraphs and between paragraphs remains unclear. These kinds of mistakes can really mess up the structure of your articles.
Paragraphs can be short or long. The length of a paragraph is decided by the theme you are discussing. It could be two sentences, but a paragraph could also contain 15 sentences. For writing on websites, we would advise to create short paragraphs (stick to less than 6 or 7 sentences).
For texts on websites, we would advise you to start your paragraph with the most important sentence. Then explain or elaborate on that sentence. A reader will be able to grasp the most important content from your article, just by reading the first sentences of your paragraphs. You can conclude (longer) paragraph with a summarizing sentence to make your point extra clear.
Use of signal words
In order to guide your reader, you should use plenty signal words. Signal words give direction to your readers. These words show the reader that you are summarizing (and, too), comparing (less than, rather) or concluding something (thus, consequently, hence).
Table 2: examples of signal words
Type of relation
Examples of signal words
and, first of all, also, another, furthermore, finally, in addition
because, so, due to, while, since, therefore
same, less, rather, while, yet, opposite, much as, either
as a result, hence, consequently, therefore, in conclusion
seems like, maybe, probably, almost
most of all, most noteworthy, especially relevant
Using signal words will be like putting cement between your sentences. Readers will understand your content much better if you make proper use of these kinds of words
Headings are important for SEO purposes. Google uses your headings to determine the topic of the content on your website. Your headings thus should be used to optimize your post. However, headings are of great importance for your readers as well. Headers allow your readers to quickly scan through your text and to decide whether or not (or which parts) they would like to read your article. Headings thus should be attractive and should cover the content of the paragraph.
You can put a header above each paragraph, or above a number of paragraphs which contain similar topics. The headers should reflect the structure of your text. We would advise you to put a header above every long paragraph ( or above a few short paragraphs which are thematically similar).
Setting up a coherent structure for your blog post will result in better understanding of the message of your post. If people understand your message, they will be much more likely to share your post on social media or buy the stuff you have to offer.
Taking the time to think about a clear blog post structure before you start writing is a very important first step. While writing, think about the structure of your paragraphs, your use of signal words and the headings in your post. If you follow these ‘rules’ your blog post will be understandable and readable to your audience (also if your writing style is rather crappy).
Today we released quite a big upgrade to our Google Analytics plugin, for both free and premium users. We’ve built a dashboards feature that shows you some top of the line stats for your site, and if you’re a premium customer, provides high-quality reports on the custom dimensions included in it.
The first ones are easy, we show you a graph of your sites sessions and bounce rate, for instance the sessions looks like this:
On the second tab, “reports”, we give you some basic reports in tabular data that are very easy to use, see the popular pages table below:
One of the cool things here is the search option, top right. Just typing /wordpress/ into that immediately gives me this:
The same power that powers these extremely fast tables powers another feature that we’re very happy to release: the Custom dimension reports.
Custom dimension reports
As Thijs was writing his posts about custom dimensions it became incredibly clear that what we were building was needed. The reports for these custom dimensions are hard to get right in GoogleAnalytics (even though that obviously gives you much more reporting power than we do in our plugin). If you want a quick overview of how many pageviews an author generated in a month, this is what you use:
You can select all of the custom dimensions that you’ve set up for your site in the settings:
New custom dimensions
Those of you who know our plugin well will go “hey, I see custom dimensions in that screenshot that I’ve never heard of”. You’re right. We added several new custom dimensions, of which “Tags” is the easiest one to explain: it stores the tag of the post that is being viewed. The other two new ones are specific to those of you who use our WordPress SEO plugin as well.
You can now save custom dimensions with the SEO Score of an article and with the focus keyword. This gives you reports that are incredibly useful when you’re working on keyword research.
When I was writing the chapter about internal links for our ebook, I also mentioned Recent Posts and Recent Comments. But these subjects were mentioned only very briefly. It seems so logical to add these for any blog, that it didn’t seem necessary to use more than a page to explain these. But if it is common sense to me, is it to everyone? My post about Common sense for your website taught me it isn’t. And if it is for you, it won’t hurt to emphasize that common sense.
In this post I will discuss a number of common internal links that can easily be added via WordPress itself. Or any plugin that is created up for the purpose.
For any website with a blog, adding recent posts or a section with a selection of links to posts (examples listed below) can be a valuable asset. We do that on our website as well. It’s an easy way of telling your visitor:
about recent market developments;
about recently added information to your website that might be of interest for him or her;
about new products or services your company offers;
or simply to let your visitor know that you have a blog.
This section usually consists of a simple list of links. WordPress offers this functionality by default like shown in the image on the right (this is actually in our Versatile Theme). But to be honest, even if you are less technical, you can create a nice PHP snippet using the examples WordPress gives for the wp_get_recent_posts function. If you prefer shortcodes, I recommend Bill Ericksons’ Display Posts Shortcode plugin.
Just recently, I also started playing with this very customizable plugin called Recent Posts Widget Extended. This plugin is very customizable right from the Appearance > Widget section in WordPress. If you don’t want to use shortcodes in widgets and prefer a customizable recent posts widget, you should really try this plugin.
There are many variations to the recent posts links:
Related Posts: usually below the actual article. Very helpful for people that want to read related posts if they like (the subject of) your article.
Featured posts: link to your main posts, best read articles or posts that relate to recent market development, for instance by linking to the most recent posts in a category.
Besides that, in the previous examples you can of course replace ‘post’ with ‘products’, and all will make sense as well.
You have to think about this section. If you add a recent comments section and your last comment is dated 2013, that will immediately add an expire date to your website as well. Apparently you haven’t written anything interesting last year?
But if you have comments on all your posts (thank you, valued commenters on this website) and you write articles on a regular basis, the recent comments section will be very valuable. Comments allow for keyword variations, as a visitor might have used a different keyword than the one you are using over and over on your blog. Next to that, and more importantly, a recent comments section will show your visitor you have a vivid and engaging reader base. Meaning you must have something interesting to say.
Note that in most cases you want to limit the number of links on your page (we aim for max 50 links per page), so the link value per link will be best. That might be a reason to choose between recent posts or recent links in your sidebar. In that case I would recommend recent posts. The reason for that is simple: If you have a vivid blog, chances are all recent comment links will go to the same page
WordPress has a function for recent comments as well: get_comments. It’s highly customizable, by the way. It’s really easy to display for instance just the comments made in the last week. As I don’t have any experience with plugins that can help you with these recent comments, I’m looking forward to any suggestions you might have.
Like with the recent post alternatives, something similar to the recent comments could be recent reviews or testimonials. Both are user generated content of course. In a recent project I found this plugin for testimonials very useful. It adds schema.org, for instance. If you are looking for a nice way to add testimonials to your WordPress site, be sure to check it out. It’s a new kid on the block, only released in May 2014, but I really like it!
Recent posts and recent comments are valuable internal links for any website. There are many ways to add these and it isn’t that hard to do. If you feel people aren’t visiting or even finding the blog on your website, you should simply add a small widget to your sidebar and see the traffic grow!
Our Local SEO Plugin has been amongst our most popular plugins for almost two years now. However, we never really highlighted or explained why it is so awesome! Let’s do that right now!
Local SEO basically is the optimization process for the local results in search engines. That means the plugin takes care of your websites visibility in Google Maps and in the so called 7-pack (see picture).
Why is it important to be visible in Google Maps?
It is important for your website to appear in Google Maps because you want people to be able to find your contact details. Perhaps people already know your business, but don’t know the phone number. If you setup your website right, this location data can easily be found through search engines.
More importantly, people often do not know your business yet and are searching globally for terms like “pizza”, “lawyer” or “broker in New York”. Google often shows a Google Map or a 7-pack for these kind of searches, so it’s of great importance that your business is listed there!
What do I need to do?
The first thing you have to do to get your website in Google Maps is to have a physical location for your business. That sounds silly, but this is one of the major requirements to get you listed in search engines. It’s hard to rank on “divorce lawyer boston” if your business is not physical in Boston (even if you provide the services there). After you have a physical location of your business you can sign up your business in the search engines: Google, Bing and now even Apple.
The third thing you have to think of is your SEO strategy! Just like regular SEO, Local SEO exists of both onpage and offpage SEO. For onpage SEO it’s important you mention the address of your business on your website in Schema.org format. And not only on your contact page, but it’s also recommended to place it in the header or footer of your website, so it’s visible on every page.
Besides the address itself the title tag is something you really need to look at. According to the Local Search Ranking Factors naming the City and State, besides your keyword, in your page title is the most important thing to do. A good format would be “<your service> <city> <state>”, for example “Shiny Teeth dentist Portland Oregon”. It’s pretty straight forward, but clear and strong! But don’t take this format for granted. Play with it and, even better, test it!
And of course we can help you with this on page process: the final (and most important thing you have to do) is to get our Local SEO plugin!
For off-page SEO, links from other sites are of course important, but also the so called citations. Citations are just mentions of your business, which don’t even have to contain a link to your website. For example you can get citations from people who review your business (like Hotfrog, Yelp, Tripadvisor etc).
Is that all?
And that is basically all you have to do! Of course, like many things, this is easier said than done. Just like regular SEO there are a variety of parameters which will probably differ for each industry. In the next months we will post some more articles about Local SEO to deepen a bit more on particular subjects. If you can’t wait for these posts we’ve already listed a few great resources you can use in the meantime:
When comparing WordPress to other website management platforms, people that favor other platforms tend to mock WordPress’ security. With the huge user base WordPress has, it’s not unlikely that hackers target WordPress websites. But that for sure doesn’t mean that WordPress is insecure per se!
Actually, there is a lot that can be done to make it even more secure. A while ago, Joost announced our partnership with Sucuri. Daniel and Tony have done a tremendous job on our plugins and have helped on several hacked websites in the past. We wouldn’t release a post on security without having an approval from the experts, that is why we ran the original version of this post by Tony to see if he had any additions. He sure did. The post became an article, actually. Find that article here: WordPress Security.
Besides their help with the article, we also asked if Sucuri could do something for our valued readers. And they have come up with a nice offer for you!
Special Sucuri offer for our readers
Because of our close relationship with Sucuri, they are willing to provide all our readers a 25% discount if they purchase a complete security package of Website AntiVirus & Firewall (basic) and pay for a year up front (currently ~ $220 / year). They will extend this to any of the higher Firewall plans as long as the payment is made for the year up front.
If you are serious about your website, you are serious about your security.
You should take our friends up on their offer, of course. And read our article on WordPress security. Of course there are loads of other things you can do to harden your security, but in the article we have focused on the things every website owner can implement.
I’m sure you will have additions and know of other plugins that help a lot in improving security for your WordPress website. Feel free to drop related tips and tricks in the comments. Looking forward to it!
Adding quality content to your website on a regular basis is a very good SEO tactic. Google sees that your website is active because new pieces of information are added. On top of that, you increase the volume of your content. If your keyword strategy has been crafted properly and your content is nicely optimized for the right keywords, adding content will increase your findability. But how to choose the perfect focus keyword? Especially when you’re blogging and focussing on long tail keywords, it can be quite hard to decide which keywords to optimize for. In our view, there are at least three things you should do before writing an amazing (high quality) text.
Choose a focus keyword that is used to search
Your keyword strategy should have given you some idea what you want to write about. For blog posts, you will usually aim for a long tail keyword (containing multiple words). In our WP SEO plugin you will find a drop down menu which supplements your entry with suggestions. These suggestions are actually based on Google Suggest. This is exactly the same as what you’d see when you type the search term into a Google search box.
The terms you will find in the suggest drop down menu are thus terms and combinations of words that are logical and used by actual people to search on the web. This tool can be very helpful in giving you some first ideas about the search behavior of people in the area you want to write about. Our Yoast Suggest tool uses the same data to find the first 10 keywords and then expands on that. Also, Marieke has recently written about more keyword research tools.
When we searched for the term “focus keyword” in february of last year, this was the suggest output:
Right now, the output shows this:
Suggest changes based on the problems people have, so monitoring it for important keywords makes sense. This particular new result gave us some extra input for this post.
Discover some information about search volume
Once you have found a long tail search term you would like to start ranking for, you should put some effort into discovering whether or not the search volume of your chosen focus keyword is high. We will be the first to admit, Google has made this really hard. The only way to know ‘for sure’ how often a search term is used, is by having an active and alive AdWords account and by bidding on the search term of your choice. We understand this is a bit too difficult and expensive for most of you (we honestly hardly ever do this).
Not to worry, using Google Trends should give at least some idea, in a creative way, about search volume. Google Trends allows you to compare the search volume between two search terms over time. This will give some insights in the volume of the search terms people use (always relative to another term).
If you already have some (blog)posts that rank well for good terms, you will know how many visitors these posts attract. Using Google Trends to compare the focus keywords of older posts (of which at least the number of visitors to your website is known) with the focus keyword you have in mind for your new post, could give you some idea about the potential of traffic this new focus keyword could have. Make sure to choose older posts that are as much similar to the post you are planning to write: if you are planning to choose a long tail keyword, compare posts with long tail focus keywords as well.
As you can see the traffic is comparable, we know the search traffic to our snippet preview post is reasonably good, so we know it’s worth optimizing for.
Using Google Trends to compare between your old focus keywords and the one you would like to choose will give you some insights about the prospects for your focus keyword.
Another way to use Google Trends is when you are doubting between a number of (long tail) focus keywords. Google Trends will easily show you what search term will have the highest search volume (compared to another). Google Trends will help you decide which long tail keyword is most common in the search engines.
Google your proposed focus keyword!
Apart from knowing which search terms are actually used by people, you need to know whether or not your idea for your post or page fits the desires and expectations of the people who use the search terms. The best way to find out whether or not your content fits these desires is to Google your proposed (sets of) keywords yourself.
Take the time to look at the first two result pages. Are the articles Google shows of the same character that your article will be like? Does your website fit between the results shown in these result pages? If you decide to write your blogpost or page, while optimizing for this exact focus keyword, you are aiming for a display of your page amongst these.
We also saw lots of questions on the WordPress forums, giving us all the more reason to write this post.
Note that we looked at the old post and decided it wasn’t good and complete enough, so we decided we would delete it and replace it with this one.
Make sure to use the content of the result pages as an inspiration for your blogpost. Are there any useful ideas (we are NOT encouraging to copy content, merely to see whether you perhaps missed some information or arguments for your own blogpost)? But more importantly: how can you make sure your post will stand out? In what way could your post be better, funnier, more original than the post presently displayed in the result pages. Try to think of content that will make the audience click and share!
Conclusion: picking a focus keyword is not easy
Choosing a perfect focus keyword is not an exact science. You should aim for a combination of words that are actually used by a search audience. Aim for a focus keyword that is relatively high on volume and aim for one that will fit your audience.
In the past weeks, we have written quite a few posts about keyword research and content writing. We have decided to combine all this writing and add some more and deeper info and are currently working on a new ebook. In this ebook we will focus purely on content SEO. We will discuss keyword strategy, site structure and content writing and give in depth information about what you can do with your content in order to improve your ranking in search engines. If you want to make sure not to miss it, subscribe to our newsletter!