Ask Yoast: include taxonomies in XML sitemap?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Your tag and category pages could be very important pages on your site. If you’re using these pages in the right way, they can boost your site’s SEO. You might wonder if you should also include these taxonomy pages in your XML sitemap. In this Ask Yoast we explain whether you should, and why!

Our support team received the following question from a Yoast SEO user:

“I just installed Yoast SEO. Should I include taxonomies, like tags and categories in my XML sitemap?”

Check out the video or read the answer below!

Include taxonomies in XML sitemap

Read this transcript to learn how you’ll benefit from including taxonomies in your XML sitemap:

“Well, of course you should, that’s what we do by default. We do that for a reason. Your tags and your categories could be very important pages on your site.
We have a post on yoast.com about category SEO, that you should really have a look at. We think that if you do your job well, then your category pages could rank for terms that your posts might never rank for. Because every post that you write in a specific category or tag, links back to that category or that tag. So those pages become very powerful. And if you optimize them well, they can very well become pages that rank in the search results. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we help you with your SEO question! Did you get stuck on an SEO issue? Are you in doubt between two SEO strategies? Don’t fret, just ask us your question! You can send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read more: ‘ Using category and tag pages for your site’s SEO’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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Is that a Possum near me?

Andrew Raynor

 

 

For a year and a half now, we SEOs have been talking to small business owners and each other about how Google’s handling near me searches better and better. Needless to say that mobile traffic is growing and location based ‘everything’ needs to be taken into account for every location dependent business. With the recent Google update that has been named Possum, it’s even more clear that Google is stepping up its game for local search results.

In this article, I’ll try to give you some more insights on near me searches and what you should do to make sure your online presence is set up the right way.

What’s near me?

Google tells you what business is closest near you. I bet you have done Google searches from your phone, looking for a local business, bakery or gas station. In the suggestions that Google gives you, keywords like these appear:

  • Near me;
  • closest;
  • open;
  • nearby.

Things that relate immediately to your location or dire needs at that time. Here are some examples from my own phone:

Near me variations

While testing this (please try it yourself as well), you’ll find that there is a ton of similar combinations of words people use to find these local businesses.

These are what we SEOs call near me searches. Over the past years, traffic on these search terms has grown exponentially:

Google Trends near me

And yes, you can optimize for these.

How to optimize for near me

Optimizing for near me searches resembles your local optimization process. There are a few steps you really need to take:

  1. Add your NAP details
    We’re talking Name, Address, Phone number, in an easy to read and index format. Preferably, I’d say to add one page per location, if you have more than one.
  2. Add NAP to Google My Business
    Add that exact address to your Google My Business page. If you have multiple locations but only need to promote one being the main headquarters, add multiple locations to one listing. If your business consists of a number of smaller businesses, feel free to add multiple My Business pages/accounts.
    Don’t forget to update your listing when you move!
  3. Add schema.org data to your address
    We made a plugin for that: Local SEO. It adds the appropriate LocalBusiness schema markup to the address listed on your website, making it easier for the larger search engines like Google and Bing to index these details.
  4. Get positive reviews
    We can’t deny that positive reviews on Google, Yelp or similar websites influence the strength of your local ranking. It’s like the marketplace. If locals, users or simply any other people recommend a business, we’ll be more tempted to go there. Search engines obviously pick up on this.
    Don’t forget Facebook and Facebook reviews in this! People also use that a lot to search for local businesses.

Where’s the Possum?

Google did an update we like to refer to as Possum, that targets local search rankings on the first of September of this year. Effects are still rolling in, and at the moment there seems to be only one real reference for the update, being Joy Hawkins’ article on Searchengineland.

There was something going on that first of September. Here’s MozCast for this month:

Mozcast September 2016 including Possum?

There’s something going on today as well, judging by this graph #justsaying. On that first of September, Joy found that:

  1. Businesses that fall outside of the physical city limits saw a huge spike in ranking.
    This is interesting, as that would mean that after the Possum update, Google is better at understanding service areas, right? That’s me thinking out loud, but it makes sense.
  2. After Possum, Google is filtering based on address and affiliation.
    Multiple addresses listed for your business? Google will most likely only show one. And I bet they try to make this the one that seems most likely for you.
  3. Search results vary more based on slight variations of the keyword searched.
    This is new to me, and I think that this is just Google trying to come up with the best result per query (as always). Google tends to focus a lot on ‘similar’ queries and less on order of words, in my opinion. In near me searches, the addition of ‘near me’ is extra, and the main keyword is at the beginning of the query. I’m wondering where this is heading, and if it’s not just something that will get back to ‘normal’ at one point.
  4. The local filter seems to be running more independently from the organic filter.
    If Possum’s goal was about delivering better local results, this makes all the sense in the world. If this is correct, it definitely feels like Google is somehow ‘helping’ these smaller businesses compete with the giants.
  5. The location of the searcher plays a larger role in what results are served.
    This seems like the red line in the update. If you search for local results in another city that you are searching from, results will vary. Mobile traffic increases, geolocation is easily determined, why not act on that.

All of the above means that if you have a local business, you really should make sure you have your local optimization in order. Focus less on trolling the search results to rank in a nearby city, as Google seems to understand that better now, and focus more on simply being the best result for your brand, business type or product.

One more thing

Following item four, local searches being less dependent on organic results, that gives local business another near me opportunity:

Product near me

Yes. Near me suggestions are given for brands and products as well. Not new, but definitely an opportunity. Good luck optimizing!

Read more: ‘Focus on Clarity First’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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7 tips to increase blog engagement

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Do you want your readers to engage with your blog? Want them to comment and share your post on social media? Want them to come back to your blog and read your next post? So, how do you achieve that? In this post, I’ll first explain the importance of blog engagement for SEO. After that, I’ll give 7 tips on how to increase the engagement of the audience to your blog.

So, what is blog engagement exactly?

We define blog engagement by all the ways people can interact with your post. This could be leaving a comment, sharing your post on their Facebook timeline or mentioning your blog post in a newsletter, Facebook post or blog post. Besides those, it’s a form of engagement to return to your website to read your next post or subscribe to your newsletter. Engaged readers are those readers that are active on your blog. You want your visitors to be active. These active users are the people that buy your stuff, read your newsletter and become regular visitors of your website. These people are your most loyal customers.

Why is blog engagement important for SEO?

Blog engagement is an important factor for SEO. If your audience leaves comments on your blog (and you respond to these comments), Google will notice that your blog is very much alive and active. And of course, mentions on social media will also help with your blog’s ranking. If people share your post on social media, or talk about it online, this will definitely lead to more traffic.

But how do you increase the engagement of your audience? How do you make sure that people comment on your blog post and share it on social media? I’ll give you 7 tips to increase the engagement on your blog!

Tips to increase blog engagement

1. Make sure your blog post are awesome!

Your content should be awesome. Your content should be so informative, funny or relevant, that people want to share it with the world. If you want to read more about the creation of awesome and SEO friendly content, go ahead and read this blog post.

2. Be consistent!

In order to get people to engage with your blog, you should blog on a regular basis. Let people know what to expect. You don’t have to blog every day to create engagement, but make sure the intervals are predictable. If people know that you always publish posts on Thursdays, people might just swing by your website on these Thursdays.

3. Be original!

Make sure your content is worth sharing. The most effective way to make sure that people want to share your content is to write original stuff. If your story is one of a kind, people will be more prone to sharing. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge.

4. Be (a bit) controversial!

People will respond if they disagree. So, if you want to provoke people to share their point of view on a certain issue, or you want to start an interesting discussion: make sure to be controversial. Make your statements a little bit bolder and a little less nuanced. Don’t go overboard, though, or you’ll have to deal with a lot of negative comments.

5. Ask for engagement!

If you want people to respond to your post, ask them to do so! If visitors are actually invited to comment, chances are much higher they decide to do so. Ask people to share their thoughts on the matter at the end of a blog post, or encourage people to like or share your post on Facebook.

6. Respond to the engagement

If you do invite people to comment on your blog, be polite and respond to their comments. If your audience notices you pay attention to their reactions, they’ll be more inclined to come back and visit your website yet another time.

Read more: ‘How to handle comments on your blog’ »

7. Engage on other blogs

Make sure to be visible on other blogs as well. Comment on posts that have similar subjects as your own posts. If people see you engage on other blogs, they’ll be curious to see what you’ve written about the matter.

Conclusion on blog engagement

In order to collect an engaging audience for your blog you should be a little bold. Make sure to post awesome and original content and add just a little bit of controversy. And, do not forget to invite people to respond! And on that matter… how do you create engagement with your readers? Do you have a hot tip? I’d love to hear your view on this!

Keep reading: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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122: The Most Important Decision You’ll Make as a Writer

Andrew Raynor

Life is full of choices. Between the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the words we speak, we make hundreds—if not thousands—of choices every day. But out of all of the choices we make, there’s one important thing you have to decide when it comes to your work.

The Most Important Decision You'll Make as a Writer “The number one most important thing is knowing why you are doing what you are doing.” This statement was made by Derek Sivers at the 2015 World Domination Summit. It cut me right to my heart.

At the time, I was fairly new to working full time as a writer and running a small, yet growing business. I was just starting to see success and make good money, but I was really struggling with the lack of freedom I had.

When it comes to our work, Derek pointed out that we really have to decide whether we want to pursue money, fame, or freedom. We can end up with one or two of these, and some of us may end up having all three. But here’s the truth: We can’t pursue them all, all at once.

What you want out of life will determine how you pursue your work. It will help you set goals, define boundaries, and pick priorities that move you in the direction you want to go.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Andy Traub and I share a clip from Derek Sivers’ talk at Word Domination Summit, and discuss how it helped me to think through my work, and how you can decide what matters most to you.

Every writer and creative person will wrestle with this decision. Listen in as Andy and I share our personal experiences with the choice we made to better understand what path to pursue.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here.)

Show highlights

In this episode, Andy and I discuss:

  • Optimizing your life for what you—not others—want to accomplish.
  • My struggle with identifying the most important thing to me.
  • Why you can’t pursue money, fame, and freedom simultaneously.
  • Being aware of what’s most important to you.
  • Understanding the pros and cons behind our pursuits.

Quotes and takeaways

  • You can have anything you want. But you can’t have everything.
  • More and more money won’t make you happier.
  • Don’t build a company if you don’t want to run a company.

Resources

What are you optimizing your life for? What steps do you need to take today? Share in the comments

Andrew Raynor

Yoast SEO 3.6

Andrew Raynor

 

 

At Yoast, we love to make our work available for everyone. We try to develop products that follow accessibility guidelines to take away any technical hurdles people may stumble on. But we can always take an extra step to help the user navigate the front-end. That’s why we’ve added a wizard to Yoast SEO 3.6, one that guides the user through the initial set-up.

Following hot on the heels of the 3.5 release, which focused on fixing bugs, we now release Yoast SEO 3.6. In this release, we’ve worked hard on getting a better experience when opening Yoast SEO for the first time. It can be rather overwhelming and the amount of setting up you have to do is pretty serious.

Making choices

But, these settings are a necessity. You have to make the right choices to get the most out of Yoast SEO. To help people navigate this, we’ve added a ten-step process that lets users gradually fill in the details of their site. Among other things, you can specify the environment in which your site is running, the type of site, social profiles, post visibility and Knowledge Graph metadata. You can also set up Google Search Console and choose the title settings.Yoast SEO onboarding

In the end, the user has a working install of Yoast SEO with the most important settings filled in. After running the wizard, the settings will be hidden. You don’t need these anymore, so they don’t have to be in the sidebar menu. You can turn these back on, of course. If you’d like to rerun the wizard you can launch it from the general tab on the settings page. We hope this feature makes it a little less overwhelming to open Yoast SEO for the first time.

Yoast SEO 3.6 Feature tab

Toggle features

But wait, there’s more. We’ve added a feature toggle tab to the Yoast SEO dashboard. Here you can enable/disable certain features. If you want, you can turn the advanced settings page on or off. Should you turn these off, they’ll disappear from the nav bar on the left-hand side as well. We’ve even made it possible to enable or disable the admin bar in Yoast SEO.

Regarding that last one: we’ve had multiple questions about the admin menu bar. Some people want to turn it off. That’s ok, and we’ve added that possibility, but you’ll lose a lot of handy checks. You’ll have no easy way to validate your HTML or CSS, or the mobile friendliness and speed of your site. But that’s all up to you of course. You can always turn the admin bar back on if you need it.

Yoast SEO Admin Bar

Full changelog

As always, we’ve posted the full changelog on WordPress.org. Happy updating!

SEO New Hampshire

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4 Mistakes Every New Writer Makes (and How to Avoid Them)

Andrew Raynor

As a writer, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. After five books, more than a thousand blog posts, and over a decade of blogging, I still mess up. And making mistakes is a good thing, because it means I’m still writing.

mistakes-writer-make

If you’re not messing up, then you’re not doing your work. You’re not pushing yourself to the utter limits and testing what you’re capable of. You’re just playing it safe.

Furthermore, most mistakes don’t matter as much as we think they do. A typo here or there doesn’t break a career. A blog post that falls flat isn’t the end. Even a book that doesn’t sell is more of a speed bump than a stop sign.

But there are four mistakes I see new writers making over and over again, and these mistakes actually can end a career. What’s worse, they’re completely voluntary. Writers choose to make them, often unknowingly, and then their career suffers.

So here are four don’ts every new writer does — and what to do instead.

1: Don’t choose a niche

Writers are often told to choose a niche before they start. The advice is to pick a thing you’re interested in, know a lot about, and can teach to others. This isn’t terrible advice. But it’s incomplete.

Because here’s the thing about choosing a niche: eventually, it’s going to bore you. You might love wedding planning or philosophy today, but your interests will change as you further chase mastery.

And one day, you will want to write about other things.

This happens to all of us, even the masters:

  • Edgar Allen Poe wrote first about youth before pivoting to the macabre.
  • Roald Dahl wrote a celebrated wartime story before deciding he was actually a children’s author.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote poems and short stories before penning his first novel.

What would our libraries and English classes look like if these writers had stuck to their original niches?

The danger of choosing any one niche is that when your day of boredom comes (and it will), you will find yourself with a frustrated audience. If they’re there to read your posts on pet training, they will drift away when you start writing science fiction. If you’ve built a tribe around the topic of global travel, you risk a mass exodus when you pivot to online marketing.

Fortunately, there’s a way around this limiting advice to choose a niche.

What to do instead: Choose a worldview.

A worldview is the state of mind you write from. It is not topic-based at all, but perspective-based. It asks that you share how you see the world, and how you and your readers can join forces to either celebrate that world or change it.

A worldview allows you the freedom to chase what fascinates you, write about it from your unique vantage point, and connect with your readers in an enduring way. It allows you to find a connection with your audience that goes much deeper than any one topic.

In the last few years on this blog, I’ve written a lot about writing. But that’s not my only topic. I’ve also written about losing friends, hosting conferences, and productivity. I’ve written about my family, business, and health. What I’ve learned is that when I write from my worldview, the topic doesn’t matter as much as I think it does. The same is true for you.

So how do you find your worldview? It’s a simple formula, actually. Fill in the blanks in this sentence:

Every [BLANK] should [BLANK].

The first blank is where you define your audience (in my case, it’s creative people). Whom do you want to write for? Who is your audience, your tribe? Whom do you want to serve?

The second blank is where you fill in what that audience can expect from you – your expertise, insight, or area of focus. For me, it’s resources and guidance about finding the attention your work deserves.

In my case, the complete sentence reads, “Every creative should care enough about their work to help it spread.” Yours will be different. Here are some examples:

  • “Every parent should teach their kids to cook” is a worldview that gives both freedom and structure to a food writer.
  • “Every entrepreneur should build a personal brand” is a worldview my friend Chris Ducker has used to write books, host conferences, and build a tribe of over a million people.

Whatever it is, your worldview should be broad enough to include all the topics you want to write about, but focused enough to attract only the right readers.

Action step: Fill in the above statement to define your worldview.

2: Don’t hide your talent

Recently, my friend Jon Acuff tweeted,

“Authors, if someone says you talk about your book too much, ask them if they show up for their job Monday-Friday too.”

I love that.

As writers, we must acknowledge our job description. We are not so lucky as to just write masterpieces and then wash our hands of them. In fact, that’s never been the case for creatives throughout history. We sometimes think those who came before us had it easier than we do. They didn’t.

It is part of your job to promote and share your work so that others can find it. Because more than a million books are published worldwide every year, yours will get lost if you don’t do the work of being an author. I’m not talking about the writing. That’s a given. I’m talking about regularly sharing your work. Too few writers do this, and too many suffer as a result.

What to do instead: Establish your platform.

Establishing your platform is new writer code for “build an email list.” You can do this for free starting today, and I hope you will. Email is still the most powerful way to communicate online. I get more “mileage” out of my newsletter than any other platform I have — including my blog. If I send a link, people click it. If I ask a question, people answer.

Your email list is your dedicated group of readers and followers who will be more engaged with your worldview than any other group. They are the ones you’ll turn to when you have questions, want to connect, and are ready to start offering your work for sale.

That’s exactly what happened for my friend Stephanie Halligan, whose email list was still very small and new when she pitched her first motivational cartoon print for sale a few years ago. She didn’t expect anything, but she was wrong. Stephanie made her first sale in just 24 hours, and she’s been making a living with her creativity ever since.

You can do this, too.

To start building an email list, you need only three things:

  1. A good email service. There are free and paid options available for people at every budget level. A great one that a lot of my friends are using lately is ConvertKit.
  2. An awesome signup form. You’ll find walk-through tutorials right in your email service to help with this. Your signup form needs to be obvious and not hideously ugly. If your website doesn’t have a clear opt-in form, I promise that you’re missing out on a lot of potential new readers.
  3. An incentive. You need to give people a compelling reason to give you their email address. This can be an eBook, a video, or a free MP3 download —whatever will help your readers. It’s an “ethical bribe” that allows you to reward subscribers with something other than just your content.

Action step: Pick an email service provider, create a signup form, and develop an incentive.

3: Don’t wait for people to come to you

Once you’ve defined your worldview and started an email list, you’re only partway there. Many writers think they’ve arrived by this stage, then wonder why their work isn’t getting the attention they think it should. They send out sporadic emails to a list of family and friends, and never bother to learn about the broader opportunities available to them.

Why?

Because it’s easier to settle for good enough.

This third step involves real, hard work, and it doesn’t always feel creative the way we think our lives as writers should. Sometimes, we’d rather settle for whatever humble success we have than risk it all for the chance to help more people.

What to do instead: Expand your reach.

Expanding your reach starts with finding a tribe that needs a leader. Perhaps your audience of food writers needs someone to write honestly about cooking for seniors. Maybe the readers of your thriller series want to read more about your creative process.

You’ll find the first members of your tribe by following step 2 above, but the truth is that’s much too passive to be sustainable. You cannot just “build it and they will come.” You have to build it and then go find the tribe that needs it.

There are a variety of ways to do this. The good news is that tribes tend to hang out together, both in person and online. When you find a few, it’ll get easier to find more.

Action step: Start guest posting.

Guest posting is still the most powerful way to get your words in front of new audiences. And if you have an email list with some kind of lead magnet (an incentive for joining your list), you can link back to that,  driving traffic to your website and converting those visitors into committed readers.

4: Don’t call yourself an aspiring writer

So you’ve found your worldview. You’ve established your home base and outposts to share your message and draw people in. You’ve learned how to choose and use tools to expand your reach, and you’ve served your way into guest posting opportunities and relationships with influencers. If you’re like many authors, you’re about to make the most critical mistake of all. You’re about to assume you’re done.

Honestly, it never ends, this cycle of serving, building relationships, and growing as a writer. And that’s a good thing. It means you’ve earned the right to do this work for one more day. That’s all success really is.

Author Steven Pressfield says you have to turn pro in your mind first. At Tribe Conference this year, his editor, Shawn Coyne, went on to explain that being a professional writer has nothing to do with external markers of success, but everything to do with how you define yourself. If you’re committed to mastering this craft and doing the work every day, you’re a pro. If you get up to write again after a day of rejection and failure, you’re a pro. And that’s all there is to it.

My friend Tim Grahl was up on stage with Shawn at the time. A successful marketer and author in his own right, even Tim struggled with this at first. Are we really pros if we have nothing to show for it? he countered. What does it matter if I say I’m a pro but can’t write a story that works?

Shawn was adamant in enforcing a point that even I have written about extensively: action follows identity. You’ll never be more than an amateur if that’s all you ever call yourself.

What to do instead: Go pro.

All writers have an endgame in mind. At least, they do if they’re smart. You want to publish a message that matters. And you can do that only if you’re committed to the work.

Decide you are more than a hobbyist. Commit to calling yourself a professional writer, then take the necessary steps to prove you are one. Seek out the resources you need to master your craft and promote your work. If you stop now, all your work will be wasted.

Action step: Decide you are a pro. Do it right now. Write it down, and say it out loud. You are when you say you are.

Educate yourself about finding your tribe, building a platform, and mastering your craft. I may be biased, but I think this site is a pretty good (and free!) resource for all that information.

Make friends with the business side of creativity. Money is a part of life. And there’s nothing wrong with getting paid for your words. In fact, building a business around your writing is the only sustainable way to keep doing it. When your art solves a problem in the world, you bring value. You can offer a course or an event. A book or an experience. Something people will pay for. And when you do this, you have peace of mind and the freedom to be even more generous.

So get creating.

If you’ve made any of these mistakes, it’s not too late to course correct. You can get the attention your work deserves if you immerse yourself in the action steps throughout this post.

Have you made any of these four mistakes? Share in the comments.

Andrew Raynor

Documenting JavaScript in WordPress

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Ever since the release of the 3.0 version of the Yoast SEO plugin, JavaScript has been a big part of it. We rely on it to make high-end features possible, like real-time content analysis. The decision to use JavaScript meant that the development team had to make a lot of choices about technologies and tools. So, we had to get a firm grasp of the use of JavaScript in WordPress.

While working on Yoast SEO 3.0, we discovered that few WordPress contributors have extensive JavaScript knowledge. At the contributors day of WordCamp Europe 2016, we saw an opportunity to help WordPress advance the future of the internet. By documenting the JavaScript in WordPress, we can make it easier for everyone to build on and enhance the code.

We believe that JavaScript is here to stay. It is a great language that helps to enrich the user experience people enjoy so much on the web. But to work towards a better JavaScript implementation and understanding of WordPress core, we had to find out what goes on!

That means documenting all the places where decisions were made, magical things happen or where complicated situations are handled. This documentation is a requirement to maintain all the functionality. It’s also crucial to prevent misunderstandings that will lead to bugs or other problems. These insights resulted in our dedication to documenting all the existing JavaScript files used in WordPress.

How we started

The first thing we did was to reserve a slot in the development calendar. Every Thursday we have two hours to work on the documentation process. This means that all developers in the office are going to work on WordPress core activities for that period of time. At the moment the primary focus is JavaScript documentation, so everybody will put their time into this particular task. In the future, we might be working on other parts of the core.

To get things going, we started off with a briefing about the intentions and goals. After this meeting, we developed a practical approach. This approach consists of guidelines and tools to ensure a uniform result. Every result must follow all standards. We use these to make sure everyone works in the same way.

Tools: JSDoc

Since we’re writing JavaScript documentation, it was only logical to use JSDoc to generate a view of the state of the documentation. The WordPress standards dictate which specific tags you should use in the documentation. It’s mainly used to validate that everything is visible at the intended location.

WordPress: Coding Standards

WordPress has a precise definition on the formatting of code. This ensures that the entire code-base has the same look and feel. It helps developers in providing a unified experience throughout the platform. You all know these definitions as Coding Standards. WordPress implements separate standards for PHP and JavaScript.

There is also a precise definition on how you should format your JavaScript documentation. It is possible to use a tool to generate documentation. If you do, you can use special keywords to provide extra information about the code that is being documented.

Prioritizing files

To start, we’ve created a list of all the JavaScript files provided in a WordPress installation. From that list, we determined what files are the most complex and which ones are in the most critical places. This way, we developed a priority list.

Weekly dedication and future

Every week, all our developers have two hours to pair up and write documentation for a specific file. All patches are code reviewed internally at Yoast before we submit them to core in our attempt to make the review and merge as easy as possible. Currently, we submitted a total of five patches to the WordPress core repository. Three of them are already merged for the upcoming release 4.7.

We received very enthusiastic feedback on the patches submitted. Besides that, we had a good time (with some frustrations) figuring out what was going on. Do you want to follow our lead and get to know WordPress core better? If so, find code that doesn’t have documentation, determine what it does, write the documentation and create a patch. It is one of the most gratifying things to do and makes core documentation maintainers jump with joy!

To be continued…

We will continue to document the files until we finished them all. After that, we will evaluate how and where we’ll put our team to work. We could work on improving existing functionality, architecture and efficiency, but could also develop new features and bootstrapping core for the future.

Do you want to help? Or do you need to document your own JavaScript for a patch in WordPress core? Then you should learn all about the WordPress JavaScript documentation standard.

The merged tickets at WordPress trac:
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37717
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37718
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/38118
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37365
https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/37571

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W3 Total Cache high-risk XSS vulnerability

Andrew Raynor

 

 

Just today, WP Media pointed us to a high-risk XSS vulnerability in W3 Total Cache (W3TC). This was a very popular WordPress plugin that has over 1 million active installs. Although it’s a very popular plugin, it hasn’t been updated in over six months. We stopped recommending it a while back for WP Rocket, a W3 Total Cache alternative that skyrocketed in use over the past few months.

We agree with Julio’s statement that when you need to explain to other people you haven’t abandoned your plugin, due to questions about that, the clock has already struck midnight.

XSS vulnerability

Let’s first explain what’s going on here:

XSS (short for Cross-Site Scripting) is a widespread vulnerability that affects many web applications. The danger behind XSS is that it allows an attacker to inject content into a website and modify how it is displayed, forcing a victim’s browser to execute the code provided by the attacker while loading the page.
Source: Sucuri

That’s definitely not what you want your website to do, right? In this case, we are talking about W3TC being vulnerable to a XSS flaw, high risk rated. This one should be fixed asap. With nobody maintaining the plugin, that is a huge issue for the millions of sites that use the plugin.

Instead of waiting for a fix, we recommend disabling the plugin and using a W3 Total Cache alternative like the ones listed below.

W3 Total Cache alternatives

Luckily, there are more plugins you can use to optimize your site speed. And most work pretty well out-of-the-box. We have listed three speed optimization plugins for you as alternatives for W3 Total Cache.

  1. WP Rocket
    Our most-recommended speed optimization plugin. WP Rocket simply delivers speed improvement. It has a lot of options under the hood and works by simply clicking some checkboxes in their dashboard.
  2. WP Super Cache
    Made by Automattic, so it works flawlessly with WordPress. It’s a simple speed optimization plugin that helps a lot of WordPress sites. We have to add a note: it hasn’t been updated in five months as well. But all in all, it’s a nice, free WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache alternative.
  3. Comet Cache
    Formerly known as Zen Cache, formerly known as Quick Cache. If you change your name so often, you’re probably actively working on your plugin as well, right? Registration is needed.

Over to you

If you want your website to be safe RIGHT NOW and you are using W3 Total Cache, we recommend investing a few bucks in WP Rocket. It’ll be worth your while. If you don’t feel like investing that money in your website, feel free to switch to one of the other W3 Total Cache alternatives instead!

We’re using Sucuri’s Website Firewall at yoast.com, which eliminates the need for a separate speed plugin. But we have installed WP Rocket on some other sites with great results, so we’re happy to recommend them! Plus, we’re on the awesome and fast WP Engine hosting platform. Just in case you were wondering 😉

SEO New Hampshire

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Ask Yoast: Links to PDF files

Andrew Raynor

 

 

If you’re starting with an (eCommerce) site you might have a lot of content that’s already available in PDF files: product brochures, datasheets, pricing information and so on. So some people might think: why not upload these PDF files and link to them? There are some disadvantages to showing PDF files on your site though. We’ll discuss some of them in this Ask Yoast, while answering a question from Stijn Vogels from Antwerp, Belgium. He asked:

“In my current mission I’m confronted with many links directing to PDF files instead of html pages. There are some clear disadvantages of PDF files, but I was also wondering if there are any risks. What risks do links to PDF files pose?”

Risks of links to PDF files?

Read the transcript of the video here:

“There’s no real risk in terms of links to PDF files. But PDF files are generally just not as useful as web pages. They indeed have some disadvantages: you can’t have easy links on them, you can’t make them as interactive, you can’t track them and you don’t really know what the user is doing, when he is looking at a PDF file.

If you can turn that into a web page, you can see what users are doing, and you can guide them to other content on your site, or make them convert more easily (buy something, subscribe to your newsletter etc). That becomes a whole lot more useful, than just having a still bunch of PDF files on your site.

So my suggestion is, if you have the choice, to always use web pages instead of PDF files. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we’ll take your SEO question! Do you have a pressing SEO question about your site? Let us help you out! You might get a personal answer on video!

Read more: ‘27 tips for a better shop’ »

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eCommerce SEO checklist: 27 tips for a better online shop

Andrew Raynor

 

 

There is so much you can do to optimize your eCommerce site for SEO, that we decided to write an extensive checklist about it. Word of warning: there’s more. Nevertheless, if you start optimizing all the things in this article, you are definitely doing a great job already 🙂

1. Branding

The first thing you should be aware of is that you use consistent branding. Make sure your brand or logo is clearly visible on your homepage and, for instance, in your page title. This will build up trust and will help to promote and build your business. It will trigger recognition, both offline and in the search result pages.

2. Compelling call to action

Your homepage needs a compelling call to action. That call to action might change over time, due to seasonal influences or for promotional reasons. Always make sure it’s easy to distinguish and it exactly meets your visitor’s needs and expectations.

3. Featured products

A nice spot on that same homepage should be reserved for featured products or something similar: list your main products or your current sales items. This will provide an immediate trigger for visitors. It will tell them if they have come to the right online shop or not.

4. Search option

Every online store that sells over 20 products should have a search option as well. Make sure to list the search option on a visible spot, as this will most probably be the navigation of choice for your visitors. Besides optimizing that search option, be sure to give the search result pages some TLC as well. More on that later.

5. About us

I like to know a tad bit more about the company I buy from. If we share the same values and beliefs, I am more likely to return to that shop and buy more products. Adding an about us page, and perhaps a team photo might create sympathy for your company. Nice examples are Patagonia and Dopper.

6. Shopping cart

Regardless of how noble your intentions are (see #5), in most cases, your main goal is to make or raise as much money as possible. That money is made through your shopping cart. For that reason alone, your shopping cart should be available and visible at all times. Make sure people don’t have to look for it.One in cart I’d also recommend adding the number of products in the cart to the cart icon. It will help me remember that added products to the cart already 😉

7. Engagement

Throughout your website, be sure to draw attention to your social profiles and newsletter. These are the easiest ways to stimulate return visits from your visitors. Add your social profiles at least to your footer (use icons, links, social widgets), but if you have space left in your header, that would be a great spot as well.
Promote your newsletter in your sidebar, of use scroll triggered boxes to draw attention to it. A nice giveaway, like our free eBook, always helps to convey people to subscribe.

8. Categories

The way you set up your categories and make these accessible for visitors matters a lot. Especially for a visitor that isn’t sure about what specific products to purchase, these categories help them get to certain product groups the fastest way possible.
Amazon has a large list of categories (or departments), but manages to keep it as clear as possible what kind of products a category contains. That has to do with naming these categories, and using subcategories the right way. Put yourself in the visitor’s spot and go over your shop’s categories. Do they make sense? Are these the terms a visitor would use? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.

9. Introductory content on category pages

Besides being very clear about the name of your category, be sure to add a nice introduction to your category pages as well. This introduction is like the glue that holds the collection of products on that page together. Especially for search engines, this is really helpful in determining the subject of the page. In that way, it helps the category pages function like a kind of cornerstone content as well.

10. Product thumbnails

In most cases, product images speak louder than a thousand words. This especially goes for those pages that simply can’t hold a thousand words about a single product, like your category or internal search result pages. Adding the right thumbnail of that dress or painting will trigger clicks to that page. It makes it easier for visitors to choose from your wide variety of products in that overview.

11. Call to action in overviews

Besides having killer product thumbnails, your overview pages also need a call to action per product. Although it isn’t possible for any product, a lot of products allow for putting these in your cart right from the category page or search results. I know of online shops that allow you to choose color and size of for instance jeans immediately. Choose, click to cart and proceed to checkout.

12. Product images

On your product page, be sure to add a great product image. That product image should be zoomable and there should be multiple views of the product. Keep in mind that even the filename and ALT text of the product image matter for SEO. For all ins and outs, please read this detailed article we did on product images.

13. Product description

Optimizing your category pages is oftentimes a lot easier than optimizing all of your product pages. If you’re selling bolts, screws and nails, adding an awesome and unique product description to each page is a lot of work. If your product page itself is something you need to rank with as well, be sure to invest some time and effort in optimizing your product descriptions for the product name and / or SKU. Our SEO plugin will come in handy if you have a WordPress site.

14. Schema.org

For more technical SEO reasons, adding schema.org data to your product pages is recommended. Add at least schema.org/Product and schema.org/Offer, and see if you can extend this to even more detailed schemas.
Adding schema.org markup is a bit more technical than optimizing your product description, so if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing please ask your web developer about this. Schema.org markup will help search engines and f.i. Google Shopping understand the contents of your page better.

15. OpenGraph and Twitter Cards

Besides schema.org data, be sure to add OpenGraph and Twitter Cards as well. These will make sure your content or products are shared in the best way possible. This and more is explained in our article about product page SEO.

16. Clear price

I can’t emphasize this enough: be clear about your prices. If you add surprise costs like shipping or taxes later on in the checkout process, this will backfire. Be clear about these additional costs (if any) right from the start. You could even leverage this by offering free shipping on orders point of over $20/50/100. Surprise costs are a major turnoff.

17. Product reviews

Creating trust is a good thing for all online shops. Genuine product reviews help a great deal in this. One thing I’d like to recommend for websites that include user reviews from third parties is to strategically copy a couple of those to your own website. If you can’t include the third party reviews in, for instance, a widget, that would be a fine solution. Add these near your call to action for the best result.

18. Related products

When you’ve got their interest, leverage that. If someone buys an iPhone 7 on your site, chances are they need a cover, and might want a pair of those really expensive wireless ear pods (those are expensive, right!?). They might feel less expensive when a customer has just paid full price for a new iPhone.
Adding a related products section, or an ‘other customers also bought’ section to your product page will trigger upsells, allow for bundles and more. We highly recommend adding a section like that.

19. Call to action product page

Your visitor needs to click the Add to Cart button on your product page to start the purchase. Don’t hide that button! The number of shops that really disguises that button is slimming, I think, but I’d still like to urge you to take a good look at that button. Especially when you also have a secondary call to action like ‘Add to wish list’, making sure that Add to Cart button stands out the most, is the largest and first major button on your product page is absolutely essential.

20. Payment options

Just like the number 16 in this random eCommerce SEO checklist, this one is all about preventing surprises. It’s utterly frustrating to find that your preferred payment option isn’t in the list of options at the end of a checkout process. We’re not pretending to be perfect in this, by the way. Only recently, we have gone from just offering Paypal and credit card payment, to offering payment options like Giropay and iDeal as well. How convenient, right!

21. Security seals

One more thing about creating trust. By adding genuine security seals and that nice green bar in the address bar of a browser, you’ll let the visitor know that he or she is shopping in a safe environment. These things will help him or her to insert their home address, credit card details or whatever personal things you ask the customer to mention. More on that in our trust article.

22. In stock

Availability is a sales reason these days. With online shops everywhere, I want to buy my things at a shop that will deliver my desired products tomorrow or even later today. Let me know if a product is in stock and if it is, I’ll be more likely to buy.
This isn’t just about competition, this is expectation management. If your website tells me something isn’t in stock, I can still decide to buy at your shop and know I’ll have to wait a bit. If I buy at your shop and the product won’t come in within three weeks due to it being out of stock, I’d rather have purchased it somewhere else. Without that reflecting badly on your brand, by the way.

23. No account needed

I have made a clear case for guest accounts or simply no accounts before, and am happy to repeat that once more. I really think that the need to create an account is a bad practice. That need is only valid if creating an account is giving the customer perks, like easy license renewal, ways to stop a recurring payment or things like that. These are things I’d like to do in a secure environment. I wouldn’t mind setting up an account for that. When I’m shopping for clothes, I think that account only makes sense for convenience reasons (not having to fill in address details next time and so) and should be created by choice.

24. Mobile

We’ll continue to optimize your mobile website and content over and over again:

And more to come.

25. Speed

When we say speed, we mean the speed of your desktop and your mobile site. People are just not that patient anymore, due to all of us getting used to faster internet everywhere. Besides that, Google tends to rank faster websites higher, just another reason to make sure your website is as fast as it can be.

26. Cookie expiration times

Perhaps ‘cookie expiration times’ is a bit too narrow for what I’m trying to say. I recently updated our article on shopping cart abandonment, that will tell you a lot of things about how people use your shopping cart. Please do read that entire article and find out why it’s better to use longer cookie expiration times for your cart.

27. Meta description

As mentioned, I’m not wrapping things up with number 27 of this list and I’m sure we’ll add tips over the next months, no years. But more than with all other websites, meta descriptions serve a purpose for your online shop.
Where Google is probably able to come up with a proper and keyword-related invitation to your website for informational pages, chances are your product page has too little information or contains details about your customer service or warranty that Google might use instead. Be sure to add a product-related meta description to your products pages, to prevent Google from using unrelated text there!

This list can be a hundred tips long, and I am sure that you can come up with a bunch of these as well, as an online shop owner. Feel free to share your tips in the comments or on social media. I’m looking forward to these!

Read more: ‘Positioning your shop in the online market’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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